simple scrapbooking.

Before I move on with today’s post, I want to say congrats to Libby.  I drew her name as the random winner of the pair of Dixie Belle brushes I’m giving away and Mr. Q is heading to the post office today to get that shipped out along with the desert themed giveaway that Debbie Dee won two weeks ago (I’m so sorry Debbie, I’m terrible about getting things in the mail promptly!)

Last Friday I wrote about losing my mojo with furniture painting, and today I thought I’d post about another creative outlet that I lost my mojo for.  I used to be an avid scrapbooker.  I feel like I must have inherited the gene for it from my grandmother, based on the scrapbook she made of their 1953 road trip.

I have almost completely given up scrapbooking, although I do still occasionally create scrapbook alternatives like the recipe box scrapbook of our Adriatic cruise.


I still haven’t finished that project.  I meant to get to it over the winter, but somehow the winter has slipped away from me and here it is spring already!

While I was out visiting my mom last month, she sent another scrapbook home with me (my mom is at that age where she wants to get rid of things).  This is a small scrapbook that I made for her as a memento from a Viking river cruise that we (Mr. Q, my sister, my mom and me) took on the Danube back in 2014.


As I looked through it I was reminded that I kept it fairly simple and uncluttered, so overall it came together pretty quickly.  Plus the 8″ x 8″ size of the pages in this book are easier to fill than those in a larger book.

So I thought that I’d share some tips today on creating a simple scrapbook just in case any of you might be inspired to get out your old scrapbooking supplies this weekend.

My first tip has to do with the photos themselves.  I print my own photos on a relatively inexpensive color printer and I use matte photo paper.  You know me, I’m not a fan of shine, even in my photos.  Printing the photos myself as I go allows me to size them to fit the layout on my page.

By the way, that guy in the photo at the top of the page is making something called kürtöskalács or chimney cake and it was delicious!

I also edit my photos using the same program I use for my blog photos, PicMonkey.  You can make all kinds of adjustments to your photo for color, exposure, etc and you can play around with fun effects (check out what I did with their “miniature” effect in this post), but my favorite thing to do is to add titles right to the photo.


There are lots of fonts to choose from, and you can adjust the color and transparency of the title as well.

Personally I find PicMonkey fairly easy to work with compared to some of the more complicated photo editing software packages like Photo Shop.

I tried to keep the focus on the photos in this book and I chose plain but colorful background paper to bring out the various details.

I didn’t add too much embellishment to most of the pages, but when I did I just layered a few elements.


I know you all are probably noticing that I didn’t do any journaling other than those titles on the photos.  Here’s my thoughts on journaling; it’s more important for scrapbooks that might be handed down to future generations than it is for your own keepsake.  When I look back at these pages I am transported back to the places we visited on this trip.  I remember quite well how rainy it was in Vienna, and the pretty pastel colors on the buildings in Regensburg.

And I definitely don’t need any more journaling to remember how freezing cold it was sailing through the Wachau Valley, even for a hardy Minnesotan like me.  I had on about five layers of clothing, plus two blankets and I was still freezing!

We spent a couple of days in Budapest before our cruise sailed and we hired a private guide for a walking tour which turned out to be amazing.


I have to admit that quote sticker I chose to place beside the photo is a bit tongue in cheek.  We walked, and walked, and walked for a full five hours (it was supposed to be 4, but we just kept on going) on that tour and definitely did not sit down a lot of the time.  My poor mom was totally wiped out.  At one point we offered to send her back to the hotel in a taxi, but she was a real trooper and she hung in until the end.

By the way, if you are ever going to be in Budapest I can’t recommend Orsolya enough.  Our tour was amazing.  You can check out her website here.  At $150 for the entire group for a 4 hour walking tour, I’d say she is still a bargain!

This scrapbook definitely serves it purpose as a memento of a wonderful trip.

Here’s hoping that we’ll all be able to travel like this again soon.  I’d love to take another river cruise in Europe one of these days!  I have to admit, I’m starting to despair that Europe will never open back up for U.S. travelers, but I’m trying to embrace optimism.  Therefore, I predict that one year from now I’ll be writing a blog post all about the trip to Europe that we are planning for Fall of 2022.  Fingers crossed!

If you’d like to see more of my scrapbooking efforts, I did post about the full size book I made about this trip for myself here, and if you’d like more details on our walking tour with Orsolya, you can find a post about that here.

the great american road trip.

First up, congrats to Debbie Dee!  I drew her name at random to win my giveaway from last Friday and I’ll be getting her prize shipped out just as soon as I get it boxed up and send Mr. Q to the post office 😉

In the meantime, in my post about my mom’s patio makeover, I mentioned that she downsized her home at the end of 2020.  As a result, she was clearing out and getting rid of things.

She phoned me one day while she was in the midst of that process and happened to mention that she had thrown away the scrapbook that her mother made of a family road trip they took out west in 1953.  I believe my response was “You did what?!!”

Of all the things she could have thrown out, she chose that scrapbook because ‘it was falling apart.’

Seriously, does my mother not know me at all?  Have I ever been know to shy away from something simply because it was falling apart?  Do I not have a huge stash of the old black and white family photos that no one else wanted, even though we aren’t even sure who the people are in them?

Fortunately, she had literally just thrown it out, so I asked her to please go back out to the garage, dig it back out of the trash can, and save it for me.

In my mind, this scrapbook chronicles not only an amazing piece of family history but also a classic story of the great American road trip.

My mom was a surprise baby that came along a bit late in life for my grandparents.  My grandmother was 42 and my grandpa was 48 when my mom was born.  She had two older siblings but by 1953 they were married and out of the house and she was effectively an only child.

That summer my grandparents loaded up the car and the three of them headed to South Dakota to pick up my grandmother’s brother and his wife, Uncle Knute and Aunt Alma, and then the five of them headed off for adventure at 5 a.m. the next day.

My grandmother documented the entire trip in this scrapbook starting with a map of their route.

There wasn’t an explanation for the two different routes shown, but it was noted that they followed the one shown in purple crayon.  The red crayon route must have been rejected for some reason, or perhaps it was plan B.

It seems that their goal was to not only see America, but also dip into both Canada and Mexico.  It must have been the trip of a lifetime for the adults (I can’t say the same for my mom, she went on to travel the world!).  They drove 7,000 miles and it took 22 days.  They saw snow deeper than their car in the Beartooth Mountains and temperatures of 105 degrees in the Mojave Desert.

But my mom still says that one of the things she remembers the most about this trip was having to sit in the back seat of the car in between Knute and Alma for all of those 7,000 miles.

I was surprised to learn that that between them my grandparents and my great aunt & uncle had relatives spread across the country all the way to California.  Out of 22 nights on the road, they spent 10 of them at the homes of various family members including a night at Aunt Nettie’s house in Long Beach, CA.

I once posted here about Great Aunt Nettie Fleaner.  I’d found a photo of her and her daughter in another old scrapbook and the photo was labeled “Great Aunt Nettie Fleaner and her daughter Flossie”.  It took me a second, but then I realized that made the daughter’s full name Flossie Fleaner.  You can’t help but laugh out loud at that one.

I also had to chuckle over my grandma’s caption for this next rather blurry photo.

Apparently several of her relatives lived in ‘modern homes’.  I suppose in 1953 that house was the height of modernity!

They seem to have hit all of the classic stops for a road trip out west including the Badlands, Yellowstone, Mount Hood, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Redwoods, Yosemite, Los Angeles, Tijuana, Zion, the Grand Canyon, and even Las Vegas …

I believe I may have inherited my feelings about Vegas from my grandmother with her comment that it was ‘mostly gambling places & motels’.  She doesn’t sound impressed, does she?

My mom said that Aunt Alma put $3 in a slot machine and my grandma was absolutely scandalized and called it sinful.  Hmmm.  In this case, the apple fell very far from the tree indeed.  I wonder what grandma would think of the fact that her daughter now lives near Vegas and I suspect she puts a little more than $3 into those machines.

For some reason I find it fascinating to think about how different Vegas must have looked in 1953.  Here’s a photo that I found online.

While searching around for that photo, I also learned that the U.S. government was testing atomic bombs in Nevada in 1953.  In some cases the mushrooms clouds could be seen from the strip.  And apparently it became a tourist attraction (check out this quick YouTube video if you don’t believe me).  Can you imagine?

I asked my mom about that and she didn’t remember seeing any mushroom clouds on their trip.

My grandmother kept track of the entire cost of the trip, which added up to a whopping $278.63, which I imagine was a fair amount of money in 1953.

I also thought it was interesting to note that my grandpa had to take an extra week of vacation without pay.  I assume he only got two weeks of vacation per year, and they were gone for three weeks.  I wish they’d noted how much a week’s pay was for him.  My grandpa worked in a bakery, so I don’t think that they were wealthy by any means.  According to the US Census Bureau the average family income in 1953 was around $80 per week.  So if you consider that, this trip, including the lost week of wages, cost about the equivalent of a month’s pay.

I wish I knew more about what inspired my grandparents to make this road trip.  I did a little online research and discovered that the popularity of road trips really took off in the 1950’s due to the rapid growth of ownership of automobiles by American families.  That made me wonder if the car they drove was their first family car, so I asked my mom about that.  Unfortunately she wasn’t really sure, but she does remember her dad taking the bus to work when she was younger so it is possible that they didn’t have a car prior to this time.

I also wonder if this trip is what inspired my mom’s love of travel.  She took us kids on roads trips nearly ever summer when we were young.  We drove to Florida once, and to California multiple times.  Of course, that is what inspired my own love of travel as well.  Speaking of, we just learned that the European cruise we had booked for September has been officially canceled.  This is cancellation number two, we were originally supposed to go in September 2020.  We’ve rebooked once again, now for September 2022.  Let’s hope that the third time will be the charm.  By the time it rolls around it will have been 4 years since our last trip to Europe and that just seems plain old crazy.

So tell me, do any of you have good stories to share about taking the great American road trip?  Or maybe you’ve taken road trips in other parts of the world?  I’d love to hear about your favorite places to visit, or trips taken, in the comments!

red rock canyon.

I am not your typical Vegas tourist.  If my mom didn’t live nearby, I’m sure I would never go there.

That being said, there are things you can do in the Las Vegas area that don’t involve gambling, drinking or bright lights.

One of my favorites is hiking in Red Rock Canyon, which is only about 25 miles from the Vegas Strip.

Red Rock offers something for every fitness level.  You could do some serious rock climbing, you could bring a bike (there are mountain bike trails, or you could just ride on the road), you can hike a 14 mile trail, you can hike a 1/2 mile trail, or you could just enjoy the scenic 13 mile loop through the park from the comfort of your vehicle.

My sister and I were looking forward to doing some longer hikes, however I managed to trip over a step on my mom’s patio the day before and injure my foot.  That sort of put a damper on the hiking.  We still managed to do several short hikes though, and we still enjoyed the beautiful desert scenery.

It was interesting to see the sandstone quarry where huge chunks of sandstone were cut out of the Calico Hills from 1905 to 1912.

The cost to transport the huge blocks of sandstone ended up being too costly to make a profit so after 7 years they gave it up.

We also checked out the petroglyphs.

They estimate that these petroglyphs are around 800 years old.  I have no idea what kind of message they were trying to convey, but it is fascinating to see them.

Our final stop was the Red Spring Boardwalk.

The purpose of the boardwalk is to keep people from walking directly on the grasses that grow near the spring and damaging that delicate ecosystem.

It was easy to see how different this area looked compared to the more dry areas of Red Rock Canyon.

And sure enough, there was even some water trickling down from the spring.

And even a little bit of green!

The next time you’re in Vegas, I totally recommend getting away from the glittering lights on the strip and checking out some nature instead.

Now, if you’ve followed me for long, you know that I always like to pick up a little something on my travels to give away here on the blog.  I know, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to travel, so you’ve probably all forgotten that I like to do this!

All I managed to pick up this time around was a magazine at the airport, but I’ve added a few other things to the prize that have a sunny desert sort of feel to them.

So in addition to the magazine, I’m including some Dixie Belle paint in Putty (a good desert hue), Haint Blue (not quite the color of that desert sky, but a pretty pale blue none the less), some Mud, a jar of the new Silk paint in Sun Kissed, some Easy Peasy spray wax, some Howdy-Do hemp seed oil and finally one of the new Dixie Belle La Petite brushes.  This brush works really beautifully for getting into some tight corners.  I’m not sure I would use it to paint, but it’s fantastic for waxing.

The rules:  Simply leave a comment on today’s blog post to have your name thrown in the hat to win.

Your comment must be left on this blog post, not on Facebook or Instagram.  You are not required to follow my blog, although it would be awesome if you did!

I will randomly draw the name of a winner for today’s prize from all of the comments left on this post by Sunday, March 14, 2021 at the stroke of midnight (U.S. Central time).

The fine print: no purchase necessary, you must be 18 years of age or older to win, void where prohibited by law, the number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning, approximate retail value of prize is $150, if the prize is not claimed by Friday, March 19, 2021 another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

As always, thanks to Dixie Belle for providing the items I am giving away.  Good luck!

making lemonade.

This whole pandemic thing has thrown us a bunch of lemons, hasn’t it?  Well, you know what they say, when life gives you lemons …

Mr. Q and I weren’t able to take our planned trip to Europe this fall, so I’ve been taking a few days off work here and there and acting like a tourist at home.

One of my favorite things to do when we travel in Europe is visit open air museums.  If you’re not familiar, an open air museum is a museum that exhibits collections of buildings.  Usually they are buildings that have been moved to the location from all across a particular country or area, quite often they are being saved from the wrecking ball.

I’ve blogged about them a few times.  My absolute favorite, and the most elaborate, is The Beamish in County Durham, England.

The open air museums in the Scandinavian countries are all amazing as well.  I’ve visited Skansen in Stockholm, Den Gamle By in Aarhus, Denmark, and the Norske Folkemuseum in Oslo.

Unfortunately, nothing near me can really hold a candle to these.  I’ve shared the Gammelgården in Scandia, MN.  It’s small, but still worth a visit.

We also have another open air museum in the Twin Cities that is a bit larger called The Landing.

A couple of weeks ago my sister and I stopped in at The Landing after spending part of the day in Excelsior.

The Landing is located in Shakopee, MN.  The grounds are open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and are free of charge.  If you want to go inside the buildings, you have to sign up (and pay for) a particular event that includes inside visits.

Debbie and I just wandered around the grounds on our visit, and we nearly had the entire place to ourselves.

There are interpretive signs at each location so that you can learn a little about it.

There is an area that represents a 19th century village and includes a church …

a cabinet maker’s shop …

a boarding house (with some fabulous galvanized tubs) …

a town hall and more.

I love the detailed trim on the town hall.

As you continue away from the village, you’ll find the 1889 farm first, then a little further out is the 1857 farm.

I confess that I coveted their little wooden cart.

Wouldn’t that be amazing with a Christmas tree in it?

I wasn’t quite as envious of their outhouse though.

It reminds me to be grateful for my tiny bathroom that seems awfully far away at night.  At least mine is heated and has electricity, and not a lot of spiders.

I was surprised to find that they had live animals at The Landing.

There were chickens, pigs and cows.

As you continue away from the village the final stop is the fur trapper’s trading post.

This building was built in 1844, before Minnesota became a state.

You know what?  I may not have been able to visit one of my favorite open air museums in Europe this year, but I made a little lemonade from the lemons being thrown at us by COVID by visiting The Landing instead.

How about you?  Are there any open air museums where you live?  If so, I’d love to hear about them.

gone paintin’ stencils.

Remember the trip Mr. Q and I were supposed to take this year?  It was going to be a cruise round trip from London stopping at 8 ports of call in Europe.  Not only was it an amazing itinerary, but we had gotten upgraded to a mini-suite.

I have to admit, I had a feeling it was too good to be true.  Us?  In a mini-suite?  Hard to imagine.

Sure enough, along came COVID and that put an end to our travel plans.  And at this rate, I have a feeling it might be 2022 before European cruises come back.  Damn!

Well, no use crying over spilled milk and I’m sure most of you are playing the world’s smallest violin for me.  I know, I know, there are far worse things happening out there.  A missed trip is nothing.  But I have been thinking about it a little bit lately because had our trip taken place, we would have just gotten home this past weekend and by now I’d be sharing stories from our travels.

I’m mainly bringing this up as a segue to today’s post.  You see, one of our ports of call was Hamburg, Germany.  So when Daggi from Gone Paintin’ sent me some of her stencils to try out recently, knowing that I was going to miss visiting Hamburg, she included a postcard!

That’s because Daggi is located near Hamburg.  The last time I shared a link to her blog, several people asked how to translate it.  I’m really not all that savvy with techie stuff, but when I bring up her blog using google, the google translate pop up box comes up automatically in the upper right hand corner and gives me the option of translating to English.

Hopefully that will work for you guys too because Daggi’s blog is definitely worth a visit.  Her style is very similar to mine, so if you like my stuff I can almost guarantee that you will like her stuff too.  It’s like my stuff, but with a European twist.

Paint furniture with Fusion Mineral Paint in Cathedral Taupe

She painted that dresser in Fusion’s Cathedral Taupe, and I especially loved how she rusted up the handles (you should check that out in her post).  She used a European product that is very similar to Dixie Belle’s patina paint.

When Daggi contacted me a while back and asked if I’d like to try out a couple of designs from her new line of stencils, naturally I said yes.  You guys know I love a good stencil.

That brings me to the birdcage that I purchased recently at a garage sale.

The birdcage actually came with a broken plastic tray at the bottom that was held in place with some clips.  I immediately trashed the tray, prior to taking the ‘before’ photo above.  It was a little gross.

But I kept the clips because I was optimistic that I could come up with something else to use for the bottom.  Then I remembered the wooden chargers from Prima Marketing.

I’ve done a couple of different things with these (you can find them here and here), but I still had a few of them left from my brand ambassador days.

Sure enough, the largest 14″ size was perfect for the bird cage.  I tested it out and found that I could even attach it to the cage using the clips.  It was kismet.

I painted the charger with two coats of Dixie Belle’s Sawmill Gravy first.  Then I taped off some grain sack style stripes and painted them in DB’s French Linen.  Once dry, I sanded the whole thing to distress it a bit.

Then I pulled out one of Daggi’s stencils called Getreide Müller, which apparently translates to Grain Miller as per google translate.  I stenciled the design onto the charger using Dixie Belle’s Gravel Road.  I wasn’t able to fit the entire design onto the charger, so I re-arranged it a little.

While I had the Gravel Road out, I also painted the little swinging perch that came with the cage.

Once everything was dry I gave it all a coat of clear wax and then reassembled the cage using the clips.

I wouldn’t necessary use this cage for a real bird, but it would be fun to use for decor purposes.  Plus, since the bottom so easy to remove and then re-attach, you could put whatever you want inside the cage.

Like a vintage book, an old pair of binoculars and a black and white photo for example.

It’s would also be perfect for a plant since you could easily remove it for watering.

What would you place inside this cage?

You can find Daggi’s stencils in her Etsy shop (click here).  Although they ship from Germany, the shipping cost is not prohibitive and in fact is quite a bit less than I paid to have stuff shipped to me from Utah recently.  So I encourage you to check them out!



This past Friday was just simply too gorgeous of a day to go to work.  So my sister and I played hooky.  We hopped into my convertible VW Bug and headed for the other side of the Twin Cities.

Excelsior is an adorable little town on the south side of Lake Minnetonka.

We didn’t really have a specific plan in mind so we parked the car and headed towards the Port of Excelsior on foot.  It was pure luck that we happened upon a little wooden box that had self-guided walking tour maps inside.  We love a good self-guided walking tour.  It always makes a place a little more interesting when you know the history behind it.

Our first stop was actually the last stop on the walking tour, Palmer’s Grove.

According to the walking tour map, this spot held summer rental cottages until at least 2000.  We’re guessing that the one shown above is the only original cottage remaining.  Isn’t it adorable?  How amazing would it be to spend a summer vacation there?  From now on I think this will be how my imaginary lakefront cabin looks on the outside.  You know, the one I would have if I had a little lot of extra money.

The Excelsior Public School was built in 1899 and it’s certainly an imposing structure.

It was used as a school until the 1960’s, but now serves as an office building.

Our last stop on the tour turned out to be my favorite of the historic homes.  The Victorian style Wyer/Pearce house was built in 1885.

Originally the property went all the way to the lake and I imagine there was grand lawn that was perfect for playing croquet.  The space has been built up since then though, so we could no longer see the lake from where we were standing when I took that photo.  But maybe you can still see it from some of those upper story windows.

Before heading out of town, we popped into a few shops along Water Street and I just have to share this one with you guys.  It’s called The Country Look in Antiques.

I’ll confess, I don’t do a lot of shopping in antique stores.  Usually their prices are too high for me, and I don’t enjoy digging through mounds of stuff looking for the one or two gems as much as some people.  But this shop was styled beautifully.

The items for sale were expertly curated.  Every piece would look fantastic in my imaginary cabin, right down to the vintage croquet mallets.

I might have to pass on the buffalo head though.

In hindsight, I wish I had at least looked at the price tag on this set of Mark Twain books.  I think Mr. Q would have enjoyed having it.

And I just love the look of them!

But I was distracted by the item that I did buy …

I’ve seen these fabulous mint green Savoy cameras on pinterest, but I’ve never seen one for sale.  I paid $30 for it, and looking around online I think that was a more than fair price.  There are a few of them for sale on Etsy ranging from $40 to $60.

My sister purchased a 1970’s Life magazine with the opening of the Magic Kingdom in Disney World on the cover.

So we each came away from Excelsior with a suitable souvenir.

We headed off to a 2nd destination after shopping on Water Street, but I’m going to save that story for another day.  But how about you, did you visit any quaint little towns this past weekend?


hello fall.

I had such an awesome time at my girls getaway last weekend.

The cabin we stayed in is about 3 1/2 hours north of the Twin Cities and it was fun to watch the fall colors growing in intensity as we drove north.  We have some trees starting to change color here, but they are much further along up north.

We had gorgeous weather, so we spent quite a bit of time on the water just enjoying the scenery.

Although I’ll admit, we froze our butts off on our sunset cruise even though we were bundled up and had brought some blankets along.

I had to borrow that selfie from Katie because I neglected to take any photos with the actual people in them.  There were 8 of us (front:  Katie, Krissy, Vonda & me, rear:  Lindsey, Mariem & Nancy).

Here’s my bff and me trying to huddle together for warmth …

That photo also borrowed from Katie.

I always enjoy scoping out the various cabins along the shore.  There was a total mix of styles ranging from super expensive (and huge) newer cabins to original vintage ones.

I’m sure it’s no surprise to you guys that I love the vintage ones best.  The old cabins tend to be closer to the water too.  Newer restrictions require buildings to be further away from the shore.

It is nice to have modern amenities like electricity and plumbing though, so as much as I admire the looks of those vintage places, it’s definitely nice not to have to use an outhouse.

For the record, my first visit to the cabin we stayed in was back in the mid-70’s and it did just have an outhouse back then!

My bff called this next spot the ‘million dollar island’ because it recently sold for just under a million dollars.

Although technically an island, there is a bridge so that you can drive to it.  And apparently the entire island is owned by one person.  I’m not sure if there is a cabin somewhere in there, but I assume there must be.  Wouldn’t you love to enjoy your morning coffee while sitting in those blue Adirondack chairs?

This little getaway up north was the perfect way to usher in the fall season.

And speaking of saying hello to fall, I ended up realizing I had six ‘hello fall’ book page banners to give away instead of four.  I drew six names at random and sent emails to the winners on Monday.  The winners are Holly, Wendy, Linda, Joyce, Sandy and Gay.

So, congrats to them, hello to fall, and be sure to stay tuned because I have an actual furniture makeover to share with you guys on Friday.  See you then!


I had taken a day off at the 9 to 5 job recently to get started on a large cupboard that I want to get painted before the snow flies.  I know, I know, it’s only the beginning of September, I shouldn’t be talking about the ‘s’ word yet.  But our fall weather can be unpredictable.  We might get gorgeous, sunny days in the 60’s and 70’s.  Or we might get this …

And this particular cupboard is too big and heavy to wrangle into the house, so I really need to get ‘er done.

But then my niece texted to ask if I wanted to go hiking with her in Banning State Park.  Not only was it a gorgeous day, but I’ve recently decided to work on getting out more.  In light of the whole COVID thing, I think it’s more important than ever to get out and do the things we can do safely, like hiking in the woods.  Plus, I always benefit from a little ecotherapy.  There is just something about immersing yourself in nature that feels rejuvenating.

So, rather than having a post about a finished project for you guys today, I just have a post about Banning State Park.  For those of you who are local, but haven’t been there (you could have included me in that category prior to this visit), Banning is just north of Hinckley, about a half mile east of I35 N and I’d say it’s worth the drive.

The trails we hiked were mostly flat, packed earth through a lovely, leafy forest.

(that’s my niece, Kris, and her dog, Jade)

But there were a couple of slightly more challenging spots …

There were also significantly more challenging trails that we could have chosen.  For example, the Hell’s Gate Trail.  The map said it was not recommended for small children though, so we chickened out 😉

Instead we did the Quarry Loop Trail which took us past the ruins of the old sandstone quarry that operated in the 1800’s.

We were also hiking along the Kettle River, although we couldn’t often see it well from the trail.

But when we could, it was magnificent.

And even when we couldn’t, the trail was still interesting.

I had read some reviews before we left and the one common denominator in all of them was the mention of how bad the bugs were.  So we came prepared with bug spray, and it was a lucky thing.  The mosquito population was definitely thriving in Banning State Park.

In addition to all of the trails in the park proper, you can leave the park and drive through the town of Sandstone to get to the Big Spring Falls Trail.  It’s a short, easy trail that leads to the Big Spring Falls.

Now, you might be wondering if the water is brown because it’s polluted, but that’s not the case.  The water in the Kettle River is amber colored due to tannins from wetlands that drain into the river.

We were hoping to see some kayakers or canoeists on the river, because this is a popular spot for white water enthusiasts, but no such luck.

We plan to get out and do a bit more hiking before winter, and hey, maybe we’ll even do some winter hiking this year.  I bet some of these trails are absolutely gorgeous in winter.

But in the meantime, I have a couple more days off at the day job this week so maybe I can get that cupboard painted!

the great river road, part 2.

I promised I’d share the rest of our trip along the Great River Road with you guys today, so here we go.

We started out day 2 of our trip in Winona, Minnesota.  Winona is quite charming and definitely has the feel of a college town.  The first item on our agenda after checking out of our hotel was to find Bloedow’s.

We’d heard they had the best donuts in town.  Normally when we stay in a hotel, we choose one that has a free breakfast included.  We did do that this time, but due to COVID the free breakfast was pre-packaged cold cereal and milk.  Not terribly appealing.

Instead we opted for donuts to go.  As you can see, even the bench outside was off limits for dining at Bloedow’s.  So we decided to drive up to the scenic overlook in Garvin Heights City Park to enjoy our breakfast with a view.

Even at 9 a.m. it was already turning into a sultry day, once again you can see that haze of humidity off in the distance of that photo above.

We were really just killing some time before we could head to The Watkins Co.

My sister had read that they had a museum and gift shop, and she loves to cook and bake so this was right up her alley.  As a safety measure, the museum was limiting capacity to no more than 4 people at a time, so we basically had the place to ourselves.  Granted, there wasn’t a line of people clamoring to get in, so we would have had it to ourselves anyway.

Mr. Q took a trip down memory lane because he sold Watkins Double Strength Imitation Vanilla Extract as a fund raiser when he was a boy scout.  He and his friend Timmy Johnson were the top sellers for their troupe, selling over 500 bottles of the stuff!

Personally my main interest in the Watkins museum were these fantastic vintage wooden totes that the salesmen used to carry their wares from door to door.

Much like the church shaped birdhouse in Old Frontenac, this would have made a perfect souvenir for me.  But alas, they were not for sale.  I wonder if I could somehow replicate that look?  I might see if Ken could make me one of these.

These cool old wood crates weren’t for sale either …

We did manage to score a few items in the gift shop though, including this cute little gift set that I put into the galvanized container that was one of the thrifting finds I shared last week.

The next item on our plan for the day was to check out the stained glass windows in town.  According to Debbie’s guide book, Winona is the stained glass capital of the U.S.  Yeah, I was skeptical too, but if you check out that link you’ll see it’s true.  Well, sort of true.  And sadly, I can neither confirm nor deny their claims because none of the public buildings were open due to COVID.  Once again, denied.

So instead we checked out a couple of shops downtown while Mr. Q enjoyed the local coffee shop.  We stopped off for a picnic lunch in a public park before hitting the road to continue south.  Before we head out of Winona though, I have to share this sign …

You can’t tell from the photo, but the paddle wheel turned in the wind.  It was really adorable.

Our next stop was meant to be The Bunnell House.

This gothic revival style house was built in the 1850’s.  I was fascinated by the fact that it was constructed out of white pine and has never been painted.  That sounds odd, but I’ve read that it wasn’t all that unusual to leave wood houses unpainted back then.  Obviously I wasn’t around, or everything would have been painted!

Unfortunately, our theme for the day once again reared its ugly head.

Yep, the Bunnell House was closed.  We were able to look at it through the fence, but that was about it.

So we moved on to the next stop on our itinerary, the Pickwick Mill.

But once again, you guessed it …


Although we were disappointed to find both of these locations closed to visitors, I have to admit that the surrounding area was really lovely and we were traveling on some pretty scenic back roads.

We continued south to La Crescent, Minnesota where we crossed over the river to La Crosse, Wisconsin on this bridge …

Once again, there were several places we had wanted to explore in La Crosse that were closed.  We’d also planned on just walking around their charming historic downtown but as you can see in the photo above, a scary storm was blowing in.

We managed to make it into one shop before we decided it was best to head back to the car to ride out the storm.  Our plan after La Crosse was to head back up north on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi.  We made it as far as Trempealeau, Wisconsin where we found a cute little motel overlooking the river.

I must have misplaced my camera at this point in our trip because I didn’t take a single picture in Trempealeau.  We visited the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge and then ended the day with dinner at a traditional Wisconsin style supper club, Sullivan’s.

Quite honestly, by day 3 of our adventure we were all fairly disillusioned.  Not only were most of the places we wanted to see closed, but the weather continued hot and humid making it difficult to enjoy the outdoor activities that were available.  So we decided to head to some of the nearby Rustic Roads in a last ditch effort to salvage the last day of our trip.

If you’ll remember, we discovered the Wisconsin Rustic Road program last summer.  Since then we’ve driven on all of the ones that are within an hour or so of the Twin Cities.  So it seemed like a good plan to check out some that we hadn’t seen yet.

This plan truly had us driving around in circles in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, but we sure saw a lot of the back roads of Wisconsin!

Eventually we realized we needed to head back to civilization.  We ended up in Alma, Wisconsin at the Buena Vista Park overlook where we had a picnic lunch and made reluctant use of a truly disgusting outhouse.

But we also enjoyed the spectacular view from the overlook.

Well, maybe ‘enjoyed’ is the wrong word since both my sister and I are afraid of heights.  My niece was the only one brave enough to stand at the edge that was totally free of any kind of railing!  It makes my palms a little clammy just to look at that photo.

From Alma, we headed north and made our way back home to the Twin Cities.

At this point it’s probably obvious to all of you that this was not one of the greatest trips we’ve ever been on.  Of course, it has some pretty fierce competition for that title (like the best day ever in Invergordon, Scotland or our visit to Flåm, Norway).  We made a few mistakes in planning this one, like not checking to see what historic sites would be open (pretty much none) or making sure there would be things to do.  That being said, hotel accommodations and food were fairly easy to come by.  We totally enjoyed spending time with my sister and my niece, and we did see some beautiful scenery.  But hopefully by the next time we travel there will be a vaccine and life will have gotten at least a little bit more normal.

How about you?  Have you managed any travel this summer?  Or are you playing it safe and sticking close to home for now?


the great river road, day 1.

As I’ve mentioned before, later this year Mr. Q and I were supposed to take an amazing vacation.  It was a cruise starting in London and stopping at eight fabulous ports of call in Europe.  Back in March, when I last wrote about it, we were still optimistic that we’d be able to go.  It wasn’t until early May that Princess officially canceled the cruise.  It didn’t take long after that to realize that we most likely weren’t going to be taking any sort of vacation that involved air travel this year.  So that just left us with either a stay-cation (staying at home and visiting local spots) or a road trip.

We were really itching to do some sort of getaway though.  My sister and my niece also wanted to get out of town for a bit of a break.  So we decided to plan a road trip.

After a little research, we settled on exploring some of The Great River Road.  The Great River Road is a series of state and local roads that follow the Mississippi River all the way from its headwaters in Minnesota, to where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.  So last week the four of us set off on our adventure.  We’d put together a loose itinerary for the first day, and we figured we’d just play it by ear from there.  We just had one rule, that we would stop anywhere that looked like it could be interesting.

So we loaded up the car and headed south on highway 61.  Our first stop was the town of Redwing, MN.  After refreshing ourselves with breakfast at Perkins, my sister wanted to visit the Pottery Museum of Redwing.  We arrived there only to find that it was closed because it was Monday.  Dang!  Little did we know that ‘sorry, we’re closed’ was going to be the theme of our little adventure.

So, we piled back in the car and considered our next move.  Since it was now around noon, and there was a heat advisory because it was in the upper 80’s with 1,000% humidity (or at least that’s what it felt like), we decided a hike up Barn Bluff was not in the cards for us.  So instead we drove up to Memorial Park which also offered a view of the city without as much sweating required (you can see the haze of humidity in the air in this next photo).

It also offered a porta-potty (a.k.a. portable toilet, jiffy john, what do they call them where you live?).  Another discovery we’d made at this point in our journey was that many of the state run rest stop facilities were closed.  We definitely had to use some very questionable toilets during our trip.

After checking out the rest of the park, we piled back into the car and headed to Old Frontenac.  Old Frontenac is a small village along the river that was established in the 1850’s and hasn’t seen a whole lot of change over the years.  There aren’t any tourist shops or places to get ice cream, but there are a bunch of houses that are over 100 years old.

Obviously, this stop was one of my picks.  I just love looking at old houses, and this was a whole village of them.

Winona Cottage (below) was built in 1889 as a wedding present for Israel Garrard’s son and his wife.

Gosh, getting a house as a wedding present, and not just any house but a gorgeous house overlooking the Mississippi River, wouldn’t that be nice!

  Most of the homes in town were well maintained and obviously lived in, but this one was appeared to be in need of some TLC …

It’s called Locust Lodge and was built in 1854.  I did a little google research and learned that it is owned by a woman who lives in Boston and has been unoccupied for years.  I think it goes without saying that the house is probably haunted!

Almost all of the houses in Old Frontenac were white with dark green shutters …

which led me to wonder if there were strict rules about using historic colors or something, but there was also one lone purple house …

Is this a house where rebels live?  Actually, according to the info I found online this is the Lowell House Bed & Breakfast, but I couldn’t find a website for them.  So I’m not sure that it still operates as a B & B.

Before we leave Old Frontenac I just have to share this little detail.  One house had a birdhouse that matched the town’s old church.  Here’s the life size church …

And here’s the birdhouse …

How cool is that?  If only they’d had a gift shop selling these birdhouses, I’d definitely have snatched one up as a unique souvenir.

If any of you that live in the Twin Cities haven’t been to Frontenac, I’d definitely recommend it for a day trip.  You can visit the old town (here’s a link to a self guided walking tour that you can download), and also visit Frontenac State Park to do some hiking.  You could also stop off in Redwing for some antiquing, or a nice lunch.

After exploring the town and checking out a gorgeous field of wildflowers …

we hopped back in the car and continued to head south towards Lake City.  We had planned on exploring there a bit, but there was road construction that detoured us around a bit and we never did make it back to Lake City.

Instead, we followed some advice I’d found online to check out a collection of restored historic windmills nearby.  So we drove a bit out into the country on roads with views that mainly looked like this …

And here is what we found …

So … I have to admit … when I read that this guy had a collection of restored windmills on his property I was picturing this in my mind …

Which I now realize was totally ridiculous of me.  We were in Minnesota, not the Netherlands.  Talk about wishful thinking.

After that little detour we continued on to Kellogg, Minnesota where we stopped off at Lark Toys which apparently was named one of the top 10 best toy stores in the world by USA Today.

It’s not just a toy store though, there is also a toy museum.

You know you are getting older when the toys you played with are now in a museum.

I had that blue Easy Bake oven when I was a kid (upper shelf, left).

They also have an amazing carousel with the most fantastical creatures.

Each animal is handcarved out of Minnesota basswood.

Isn’t the otter totally adorable?

I think my favorite might have been the flamingo though.

After buying some fudge at the gift shop we headed back to the car and drove the rest of the way to Winona where we found a hotel for the night and some down home cookin’ for dinner.  Mr. Q had liver and onions (his favorite, gack!) and I had a hot turkey open faced sandwich with mashed pototoes.  You can’t get much more down home than that.

I hope you enjoyed checking out some of the sights along the Great River Road with me today.  Have any of you traveled any portion of the route?  Or maybe you have another road trip that you can recommend.  If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!