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!

 

excelsior.

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!

ecotherapy.

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 …

Closed.

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!

back to back barn sales.

I’m sure most of you have been hearing about the civil unrest that started in Minneapolis last week and has now spread to many other cities as well.  I’m not going to comment on that situation here on my blog because I like to keep this space positive.  Usually I’m a ‘glass half full’, ‘look on the bright side’ kind of person.  But I truly can’t find anything positive to say about what is happening in the Twin Cities.  The entire situation is simply heartbreaking.

After watching things go from bad to worse over several days, my sister, niece and I decided to literally put the city in the rear view mirror and head out into the country on Saturday.  It was a gorgeous, although a bit cool, sunny day.  We grabbed sweatshirts and hopped into my convertible VW bug and headed east.  We then drove north along the St. Croix River to Mr. Q’s home town, Marine on the St. Croix, where we stopped off to score some snacks at the general store.  Restaurants are still not open here in Minnesota, so we have to improvise.

Next up was The Garden Gate at Crabtree’s, a cute little shop with lots of garden ornaments.  From there we headed back west to the Gammelgården Museum in Scandia.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know how much I love open air museums.  I’ve visited them in Stockholm, Oslo, Aarhus and of course there was The Beamish, in County Durham, England.

The Gammelgården in Scandia doesn’t really hold a candle to any of those, but it’s still fun to check it out.  Unfortunately, although we escaped from rioting and looting, we couldn’t escape from COVID.

The giant Dala horses all wore masks, and none of the historic buildings were open.  We were able to wander around the grounds and admire them from the outside though.

The Präst Hus was built in 1868 and I find the construction fascinating.  Just look closely at the corner of the building …

It’s dovetailed, like a giant piece of furniture!

After leaving the Gammelgården, we stopped at another historic site, the Hay Lake School.

Once again, the site was not open due to COVID, but we did peek in the windows.

This one room schoolhouse was built in 1896 and was in use until 1963!

As we started to make our way back home, we spotted a sign for a barn sale.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to see that!  A barn sale!  Of course we had to stop.

We followed the signs, made our way down a dirt driveway, and behold …

A legit barn sale!

I found a few goodies to purchase including a set of 4 old cupboard doors that I’ll turn into signs …

Some old buckets that I’ll dress up with transfers to be used as planters …

And this fab old shoe form.

And then, as if that wasn’t good enough, the proprietors of this sale told us there was a 2nd barn sale just up the road.  Back to back barn sales!  It was our lucky day.

This 2nd sale was actually more of an occasional sale, although it was technically in a barn.  They were selling pieces that have already been given a face lift, lots of painted furniture and other goodies.  As the guy at the first barn sale put it, he was the K-mart of barn sales and they were the Macy’s of barn sales.

None the less, I found a few things to buy including a glass jar and an old coffee pot that will both get dressed up with transfers.

Also, I had been looking for something to perch my Lunch Menu planter on and this $10 stool looked just about right.

I know it won’t hold up well outdoors forever, but for $10 it’s OK if it just lasts a season or two.

Our escape to the country on Saturday provided a much needed getaway for all of us.  We were able to forget about the world’s problems for a while and just enjoy some peaceful scenery on a beautiful sunny day.

Capping it off with back to back barn sales was the cherry on the sundae.

While normally Debbie and Kris would have stayed at our place afterwards for a bonfire, or a game night, they had to get home before the 8 pm curfew that was in place over the weekend.  That being said, we are all safe and healthy and I hope you are all the same!

the travel bug.

I didn’t really see the irony in that blog title until I actually typed it.

I guess there are two ways of looking at having the ‘travel bug’ these days.  Fortunately, so far, I only have the traditional travel bug.  That is, a strong desire to travel.  I do not have COVID-19, the other ‘travel bug’.

I’d go on here about how it seems like once you no longer have the opportunity to do something, that’s when you really want to do it.  That doesn’t really fit though, because I always really want to travel and that hasn’t changed as a result of COVID-19.  Although now that I can’t go anywhere, not even to my favorite thrift stores, I have been daydreaming more about traveling and all of the places we would like to go.

Mr. Q and I actually have already booked our next trip.  I still remember when we decided on it way back last summer.  We were dining on the deck and Mr. Q was perusing the latest Princess cruises brochure.

At the time we weren’t even really thinking about another cruise, but he came across one that really looked intriguing.  As we studied the ports of call I realized that we could check out several places I’ve always wanted to see; Bruges, Giverny (to see Monet’s gardens) and Madurodam (seriously, check this place out, especially if you’re into miniature things like I am).

The itinerary is called European Capitals, which is a little bit of a misnomer.  It sails round trip from London and the ports of call are:

Hamburg, Germany – theoretically for Berlin, which is a capital, but is really rather far away from the port.

Aarhus, Denmark – not a capital

Copenhagen, Denmark – OK, finally, a real capital

Gothenburg, Sweden – again, not the capital (and in this case, I really wish it went to Stockholm instead)

Oslo, Norway – another real capital

Rotterdam, Netherlands – not a capital

Bruges, Belgium – not a capital

Le Havre, France – also not a capital, but much like Berlin, you can get to Paris from here but it’s a lengthy trip

So technically speaking, only two of the eight ports are actual capitals.  Maybe they should have named this itinerary the A Handful of European Capitals, or Close, but No Cigar to European Capitals.  But we don’t care, we are just as interested in seeing these non-capital cities.

Only two of them are repeats for both of us, Copenhagen

and Oslo

both of which we love and are happy to return to.  I’ve also been to Aarhus, but that was 25+ years ago on my very first trip to Europe with my mom (it was also my first ever visit to an open air museum and I loved it).  I’m betting it has changed a bit since then.

We got a great deal when we booked.  Free tips, a $300 ship board credit and we only had to pay a $200 deposit.  We were also given a free upgrade a couple of months ago, from a balcony to a mini-suite.  That has never happened to us before!

So we’d been feeling pretty excited about this trip.

And then COVID-19 happened.

And in the early days all of the bad press seemed to be focused on cruise ships … even specifically Princess cruise ships.

Still, we figured our trip was far enough out (it’s in September) that we’d be fine.  I’m starting to wonder about that a little bit more now that things have really gone downhill.  But, we have almost six months before our trip.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all will be well by then.  Or at least well enough for people to begin traveling again.

In the meantime, all we can do is day dream about travel right now.  If you need some help with that, check out all of my travel posts by selecting the travel category under ‘stuff.’ over on the right side of your screen (if you’re using a computer to view the blog, if not, try this link).

So tell me, if this COVID-19 thing wasn’t happening and you could go anywhere right now, where would it be?

 

a magical tour.

My sister and I try to take a guided tour each time we visit a Disney park.

In 2009 we did the Segway tour in Disneyland’s California Adventure …

That was really a fun one because the entire tour took place before the park opened to the public.  How else could they have everyone zooming around on Segways and not running people over?!

Unfortunately Segway tours in the parks themselves are no longer being offered, however there is still a Segway tour available in Fort Wilderness, the campground area of Disney World.  But let’s face it, that’s just not the same thing at all.

In 2017 we did the World Showcase: DestiNations Discovered tour in EPCOT.

That time we had access to the World Showcase part of EPCOT before it opened to the public for the first couple of hours of our tour.  You can read all about that tour here.

In 2013 we did the Keys to the Kingdom tour.  That tour takes you into the underground service tunnels, or the Utilidor, beneath the Magic Kingdom.

Taking a guided tour used to be a great way to get into the park ahead of everyone else thus giving you a little time to get some great photos of a mostly empty main street.

I’ve always felt like there is something especially magical about having the park all to ourselves.

However, this time around the parks were all open early for extra magic hours every day including the Magic Kingdom which was open at 7 a.m.  That pretty much meant that we didn’t get in ahead of anyone else for our 8 a.m. tour.

Nonetheless, the Marceline to Magic Kingdom tour that we did this trip was one of the most amazing tours we’ve done in the Magic Kingdom.

It was a 3 hour walking tour and cost $49 per person (and you must have a valid park ticket for the day as well).  Honestly, it would have been a bargain at twice the price.

We signed in at Main Street’s Town Square Theater, were issued name tags and listening devices and were offered bottled water.  We were a small group of only 8 people.  Our guide, Darlene, began our tour by explaining that this wouldn’t be your typical guided tour where she simply told us about the park and answered questions.  Instead she was going to tell us a story.  The story of Walter Elias Disney.

As soon as Darlene began speaking I knew we were in for a treat.  She was obviously a born story teller.

The story begins on Main Street.  Darlene explained that although Walt Disney only lived in Marceline, Missouri for four years he always considered it his ‘home town’.  Main Street was not modeled after the way the town of Marceline looked, but instead it was based on the way it always felt to Walt.

Walt wanted Main Street to feel like everyone’s home town, not just his own.

As we continued to walk towards Adventureland and the home of the Tiki birds, Darlene told us some great stories about the early days of Disneyland planning and the beginnings of audio animatronics, explaining just how innovative Walt and his Imagineers were.

Our tour next included a ride on the Haunted Mansion, followed by a top secret peak behind the scenes into the workings of the famous ballroom scene.

We were led into the basement of the building where we were able to see how the effect of ghosts enjoying a birthday ball is created.  I won’t give any of those secrets away here, you’ll just have to take the tour yourselves if you want to know more.

Next we headed onto It’s a Small World as Darlene continued to tell us about Walt’s life and how he created Disney World as a place where families could have fun together.  He didn’t want parents to just sit on benches watching their children on rides, he wanted them to ride together.

At the end of our tour, Darlene explained that she had dreamed of being a Disney tour guide since she was five years old.  That was when she first met Walt Disney himself.  You see, her dad was one of those early Imagineers.  Her grandparents also worked for Disney.

She had been watching those Disney guides with their plaid skirts and riding crops and she knew that was what she wanted to be when she grew up.  Her mom made her a plaid dress, and her dad fashioned a riding crop out of a tree branch and Darlene conducted her own tours of Tom Sawyer’s Island for other kids.  Uncle Walt (as she called him) told her that as soon as she turned 18 he would give her an official job at Disneyland.  Sadly, Walt died just two years later when Darlene was 7.  But she still went on to work for Disney, and now she has an authentic plaid skirt and riding crop.

I can’t possibly tell the story as well as Darlene did, but I can tell you that there wasn’t a dry eye in the group by the end.  It really felt like Darlene brought Walt Disney to life for us for those three hours.  If you are heading to Disney World any time soon, I highly recommend taking this tour … although maybe not with kids.  Kids would likely find it boring.  In fact, kids who are 12 years old or more can participate, but even the official Disney description of the tour says it is better suited for adults.  But if you’re looking for a unique way to see Walt Disney World, you should definitely consider taking this tour.

How about any of you?  Have you ever taken a guided tour at a Disney park?  If so, I’d love to hear about it!