life is a journey.

I’ve got one last post today from my recent trip out west.  Be sure to read all the way to the end, because we’ve finally gotten to the giveaway!

When I was out at my mom’s place the first time this year, back in February, one of the things she wanted me to do was paint her front door.  Well, that is a project that is right up my alley!  And so much more fun than washing windows or doing her taxes, which are the typical sort of things she wants my help with.

So we popped out to her local Lowes to pick out paint for her door.  She wanted either a navy blue or a dark green.  We picked a lovely color from the sample chips and went up to the paint mixing counter to have it whipped up.  And you know what?  They couldn’t do it.  They did not have the appropriate dark base paint to mix up a dark color!  I have to admit, I was flabbergasted.  I mean, I’d been hearing that people were having some trouble getting paint these days but I guess I just didn’t expect Lowes to tell me that all they had available were pale shades.

Since I knew I was going back to visit again in a few weeks, I told my mom that I would bring some Dixie Belle paint with me for her door.  She ended up deciding that she wanted dark green rather than navy, so I chose Midnight Green from Dixie Belle’s new Desert Collection.  After all, a color from the Desert Collection seems appropriate for a door in the Mojave desert, right?

The beauty of the Silk All-in-One paint is that it has a built in primer and top coat.  So I only needed to pack the one 16 oz. jar in my suitcase.  I wrapped it in bubble wrap, and then enclosed it in a zip lock bag as an extra precaution.  I have to admit, I was a little nervous that the jar would explode in my suitcase and I’d be wearing paint splattered clothing for my entire visit (not as though wearing paint splattered clothing would be anything new).  But it survived the journey just fine.

To prep the door, I cleaned it with some spray cleaner that my mom had on hand and then I sanded it with a 180 grit sanding block that I did find at her Lowes.  Then I gave it two coats of Midnight Green.

Her door went from boring brown …

to a vibrant green.

One thing I hadn’t considered was how incredibly fast paint dries in a desert environment.  It was a gorgeous day, somewhere around 70 degrees, so not hot.  But the air out there is really dry.  I struggled to maintain a wet edge in order to avoid brush strokes on the large surface of a door.

But my mom loved how it turned out, so that’s the important thing, right?

Have you seen all of the colors in the Desert Collection?

There is the Midnight Green on the lower right.

I used the Mojave on the inside of a washstand I painted earlier this year.

I wasn’t sure what I thought of this color at first, but it really grew on me after using it on this piece.

It pairs beautifully with Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth.

Since I happened to be out in the desert, I decided to see if I could find some of the paint colors from the Desert Collection at the Ethel M Botanical Cactus Garden.

Cactus was easy.

It’s a cactus garden after all.

I was really hoping that Prickly Pear would be easy too, but this vibrant pink is the color of the flower.  Apparently Prickly Pear cactus blooms in May through July, so there were no blooms to be found.

I think you can get a hint of Mojave in the spines on these cacti.

They don’t really have an oasis at the cactus garden, but I thought maybe Oak Creek from Sedona would count.  The color is certainly right.

I also found a bit of the Morning Sunrise color during one of our sunrise hikes in Sedona.

There are 5 more colors in the Desert Collection, but I’ve chosen these five to include in today’s giveaway!

But before we get to that, I had to share this funny coincidence.  When we popped inside the Ethel M Factory after checking out the cactus garden, there were signs announcing their revamped packaging that pays homage to the color palette of the Mojave Desert.

There is Fiery Sky, Midnight Green and Morning Sunrise.

And here is some Mojave.

And here is Umber.

OK, of course these colors are not based on the Dixie Belle colors, or exactly the same, but I just had to share the fact that two entirely different products (paint and chocolates) on two opposite sides of the country (Florida and Nevada) were thinking the same thing at the same time.

That brings me to my giveaway!

It will include five colors from the Desert Collection; Morning Sunrise, Cactus, Oasis, Mojave and Prickly Pear.  Plus some Prickly Pear taffy that I picked up in Sedona, as well as this bracelet, also from Sedona …

I purchased one of these bracelets for myself, and then thought it would be fun to include one in the giveaway as well.  Life is a journey, not a destination.  Although, as destinations go, Sedona was a pretty good one 😉

The rules:  Simply leave a comment on this blog post to be eligible 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 Friday, April 15, 2022 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 $160, if the prize is not claimed by Friday, April 22, 2022 another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

Thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co for providing the paint I’m giving away today.

practically famous.

My sister and I often drive out to Boulder City, Nevada while visiting my mom.  Mom lives in Henderson, Nevada.  If you aren’t familiar, Henderson is a huge suburb of Las Vegas that has grown tremendously over the last 30 years.  It’s southeast of Vegas, and if you’ve ever gone to Hoover Dam from Vegas you’ve gone right through Henderson.  All of that to say that it’s only about 20 minutes from my mom’s place to Boulder City, Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam.

Despite being so close, we’d never hiked on the Historic Railroad Hiking Trail in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area during our previous visits.  So this time around we thought we’d give it a go.

The parking area for the hiking trail is located just past the Lake Mead Visitor Center.  I took the photo above from the Visitor Center, and the parking area you see off in the distance on the right side of the photo is for the hiking trails.

The trail is an out and back trail (not a loop) and is around 7 miles round trip if you do the whole thing.  We only did the part of the trail that goes through all five tunnels, so about 5 miles total.

While the scenery on this hike wasn’t quite as spectacular as the scenery in Sedona, it was pretty interesting to go through the tunnels and to read some of the history of the area on the trailside signs.  This trail is built on the old Hoover Dam railroad bed that was constructed for the purpose of moving supplies and machinery by steam or gas locomotives to the dam construction site.

I was especially fascinated by the explanation of Ragtown, the area where workers from the dam and their families lived in wooden cabins, tents or even cardboard shacks during construction of the dam.  They had no running water and no electricity (in other words, no air conditioning and not even a fan).  With daytime high temps reaching close to 120 degrees, and not a lick of shade in sight, I can’t even imagine how miserable the conditions were.  And keep in mind, the dam wasn’t finished yet so the lake wasn’t there and you couldn’t just jump in to cool off.

Alongside the trail are sweeping views of Lake Mead.  Below is a view of the marina.

I’ve always thought it must be fabulous to have a boat on Lake Mead.  It’s so huge and there never seems to be a lot of boat traffic (ironically, I just watched Pam & Tommy on Hulu and discovered that their infamous sex tape was filmed on a boat on Lake Mead, so proof positive that you can find some fairly secluded spots I think).

We had a picnic lunch after our hike and then headed in to Boulder City.  I’ve written about Boulder City here on the blog before.  I think of it as the southwestern version of Stillwater, MN.  It’s a cute little historic town with restaurants and quite a few antique shops.  There’s also a section of town with the most adorable 1930’s bungalows.    I guess if you were higher up on the food chain of those who worked on the dam, you got to live in a pretty bungalow in town rather than in a cardboard shack in Ragtown.

I never manage to get any photos when passing by the historic neighborhood, but I grabbed one off the internet for you.

The next time I’m in Boulder City I really want to just walk through this neighborhood and take a few photos.

My sister and I did head into a few shops while we were in town including the Boulder City location of Bloom.

Full disclosure, I took that photo last year.  I neglected to get a storefront photo this time around.  I mentioned the location of Bloom that is in The District in Henderson the last time I visited my mom.  They are IOD retailers, so I always try to stop in to see what they have.  I purchased the Rose Chintz paint inlay there.  This time around I was hoping they had the brand new Cheers transfer, but they did not have it at either the Boulder City location or The District location.

However, I did manage to find several other things to buy this time …

I don’t know what possessed me with that giant rubber stamp.  I’m always drawn to the stamps, but to be honest I typically don’t like the way stamps look on anything other than paper.  But I’m going to do some experimenting with the IOD ink and see if I can do anything fun with this one.

We also stopped in to Goatfeathers Emporium in Boulder City where we found the usual suspects like jadeite …

and copper …

I had to snap a quick shot of this Pfaltzgraff Yorktowne stoneware and text it to my friend Sue.

I recently pointed out to her that pretty much every thrift store we’ve been in has at least one piece of this stuff if not more.  It’s kind of a joke between us now to find it and point it out each time.  Are any of you fans of this stoneware?  If so, you should be thrifting it and not buying it in an antique mall, FYI!

Before heading back to my mom’s house, we also stopped in at Bella Marketplace.  This place was definitely more my style than Goatfeathers was.

Just check out this adorable kid sized hutch …

The display of vintage linens on an old wooden ironing board was fun.

And you know I love old cupboard doors turned into signs or peg boards.

This shop also had a vendor selling with prima transfers and DIY paint.  They didn’t have any of the newer prima transfers that I’ve had my eye on (such as the blue toile, or the London Love), but I did pick up some of DIY’s Liquid Patina in Dark & Decrepit.  I’ve wanted to try this product for a while now.  I’ll be sure to let you all know how I like it.

As I was studying all of the furniture painting supplies that were available I caught something out of the corner of my eye.

You know how it is when something is totally out of context and your brain takes a minute to register what you’re seeing?  Yeah, it was like that.

I thought, ‘hey, that looks just like my guest room bed’ …

It took me a second to realize … hey … wait a minute … that is my guest room bed!

How cool is that?  I’m practically famous!

That project goes back to when I was a content creator for with prima, so it makes sense that one of their retailers would be using it for marketing.  It was really fun to see it being used in this way.  I don’t know whether or not the owner of this booth follows me here, but if you do, then thank you!  I enjoyed my visit to your shop.

I like to search for brick and mortar retailers of products I use when I travel, it’s a fun way to find shops that I think will appeal to my aesthetic.  And speaking of which, Mr. Q and I are going to Charleston in April!  I’ve done a little searching and see a couple of shops in Summerville that sell IOD or Dixie Belle products.  If any of you can recommend fun shops to visit, or other awesome things to do in Charleston, be sure to leave a comment and let me know.

And if you don’t have recommendations for Charleston, leave me a comment and let me know if you’ve ever been to Boulder City.  If you’re a regular visitor to Las Vegas, and have never made the trip out to Boulder City, I highly recommend it.  Assuming that, like me, you enjoy seeing some historic homes and visiting antique shops.

 I have one more blog post to share from my trip to Mom’s, and it’s going to include a fabulous desert themed giveaway, so be sure to check back for that later in the week!

rope dropping sedona.

Those of you who visit Disney parks will know exactly what I mean when I say ‘rope dropping’, but for the uninitiated, rope dropping is when you get to a park before it opens to try and beat the crowds.  Back in the day they literally had a rope across the entrance that they dropped at opening time, hence the name.

My sister and I are expert rope droppers, we wouldn’t do Disney parks any other way.  They get so crazy crowded later at mid-day.  These days I find that the only enjoyable time to be in the parks is early morning, or late evening.

Well, as we discovered on our trip out there last week, Sedona, Arizona is a bit of the same.  Debbie and I put our expert rope dropping skills to work in Sedona!

But let me start at the beginning.  After flying out to our mom’s house, we got up early the next morning, packed up the car and headed for Arizona.  It takes just over 4 hours to drive from Henderson, Nevada to Sedona, Arizona.

We drove to Flagstaff, and then took 89A, a.k.a. the Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive, south from there into Sedona.  I took this photo from the Oak Creek Vista just so I could show you guys what that road looked like.

Uh, yeah, it was kind of scary.

Rock wall on one side, massive drop off on the other.  My mom was cool as a cucumber in the back seat, but Debbie and I white knuckled it the whole way down.  The scenery was absolutely spectacular though.

If you head into Sedona from Phoenix or Tucson you won’t be coming this way, but it’s worth taking the drive up and back just for the scenery.  Just take 89A north out of Sedona.

Just to mess with our heads, we were traveling on the first day of daylight saving time.  Plus, Arizona is a different time zone than Nevada.  Plus, we had just flown in from Minnesota which is in even another time zone.  Plus, Arizona doesn’t do daylight saving time, but Nevada does.  Seriously, wrap your head around that.  We had a heck of a time figuring out what time we needed to leave my mom’s house in order to be in Sedona for a 2 p.m. tour we had scheduled.

But we managed it.

Prior to leaving home, we had read a travel tip that suggested taking a trolley tour when first arriving in town to get a good overview of the area and to decide what areas you want to go back to explore further.

So we had booked the Sedona Hi-Points Tour through Red Rock Magic Trolley.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed when I realized that our tour was in a van, not a cute little trolley.  Once again, I hadn’t read the fine print.  Only the shorter 55 minute tours took place in a trolley, our 2 hour tour was with a van.  But in the end, it was a fantastic tour.  In addition to the three of us, there was only one other couple in our group so it really felt like we had a private tour.  Our guide was super nice and very knowledgeable about Sedona.  We visited Bell Rock, The Chapel of the Holy Cross, and Airport Mesa.  Our guide explained the energy vortexes that Sedona is known for, and even did a little demonstration at the Airport Mesa, which is considered to be the most powerful vortex in Sedona.  I have to admit, I’m a bit of a skeptic about these things.  I didn’t get any sort of magical tingly feeling, but hey, maybe my chakras were a little cleaner after that.  Who knows?  My mom wasn’t up for much walking so she opted to stay in the van at Bell Rock and at the Chapel and our guide stayed with her and regaled her with stories of Sedona.  He was super nice to her and didn’t make her feel like she was an added burden at all.  It was handy having a driver to drop us off at both of these locations because they were very crowded and parking was a nightmare, so the tour was worth it just for that.

After our tour concluded, we settled in to our hotel.  We stayed at the Best Western Plus Arroyo Roble Hotel in the Uptown area.  The view from our patio was pretty spectacular.

Just behind the hotel you can walk down to Oak Creek, and my sister and I did that just before sunset on our first night.

It was so peaceful and picturesque.

And having just flown in from Minnesota (where it was 7 degrees) the previous day, it just felt amazing to be outside in such beautiful surroundings.

The hotel also offered a fire pit.

Seriously, does that look like a fake backdrop or what?  Nope, that was our actual view.  Some other travelers at the hotel joined us out there after dark and it was fun chatting with them.

The pool area was lovely as well.

Although it was fairly cool while we were there, the pool was heated and people were using it in the afternoon.  We hadn’t brought swimsuits though, so we missed out on that.

I should mention that this hotel is right smack dab in the heart of the most touristy part of Sedona called Uptown.  I didn’t get any photos of that area, but it’s full of over-priced restaurants, cheap souvenir shops and LOTS of tourists.  It’s a strange juxtaposition to have all of that beautiful nature out the back, while being steps away from all of that intense action out front.  It was interesting to note that everything closed up fairly early though.  By 8 p.m. the area out front was practically deserted.

I have absolutely zero complaints about this hotel.  The customer service was fantastic.  In fact, on our last night there were weren’t able to get into the safe in our room and my sister had put the car keys in there while we went to dinner.  After the hotel staff couldn’t get it open either, they located someone at 9 pm to come and drill the safe open so that we wouldn’t have to give up our plan for a sunrise hike the next morning.  The included breakfast buffet was really nice too.

And speaking of breakfast, I think the best advice we got from our tour guide was to get up before dawn and do some of the popular hikes before breakfast to avoid the crowds.  In other words, we had to be at the trailhead at rope drop!

Now, I should preface this next bit by pointing out that my sister and I aren’t getting any younger.  She’s nursing a knee injury, and I have tendonitis issues in one of my heels.  Add on to that the fact that we are both afraid of heights.  So we planned on hiking the easier trails in Sedona, and not doing any climbing.  But for those of you in the same boat, these hikes are still well worth it for seeing some pretty spectacular views.

Our sunrise hike on the first morning was to Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte.

We started off down this trail headed towards Bell Rock just as the sun was coming up.

As you can see, the trail is pretty flat at first.  You can opt to climb Bell Rock, and there were plenty of people doing that, but I got sweaty palms just looking at other people standing at the edge up there.  So we chose to just walk around the perimeter, which still offered awesome scenery.

Just to be clear (for those who may also want to take this hike), the trail wasn’t flat sand the entire time.  There was some easy rock scrambling involved too.  But it was very doable.

Next we headed off towards Courthouse Butte.

The butte is pretty darn impressive.

By the way, a butte is defined as an isolated hill with steep sides and a flat top (similar to but narrower than a mesa).

As impressive as that view is, if you turn around, the vista from here is even more spectacular.

After hiking for a couple of hours, we headed back to our hotel for breakfast.  After breakfast we decided to check out a popular shopping area called Tlaquepaque.

None of us are big shoppers, but the area was so pretty that we could have wandered around in there for quite some time just admiring it.

Tlaquepaque was designed in the 1970’s and the design was based on traditional Mexican villages.

There were pretty little plazas around every corner.

And the tilework was really gorgeous.

I really did feel as though I was in another part of the world entirely.  But then, this is completely different from anything you’d find in Minnesota!

We did a shorter sunrise hike the next morning before heading back to mom’s house.

I have to say that the hike into Fay Canyon wasn’t quite as impressive as the previous day’s hike, but it was still rather magical.

As with the Bell Rock hike, there was only one other car in the parking lot when we arrived, but it was almost full when we left.  All the way back to the hotel we saw cars lining the roads at each trail head that weren’t there when we arrived at dawn.

So my biggest q tip for you if you ever get to Sedona is to be sure and rope drop the hiking trails.  They are absolutely gorgeous in the morning light.  You won’t have them entirely to yourself, but there won’t be hoards of people on them yet.  And best of all, after all of that hiking you don’t feel one bit guilty about that extra sausage you’ll have with breakfast later!

Be sure to stay tuned because I’ll be sharing the rest of my trip out west next week and I’m planning a fabulous giveaway to go with it.  In the meantime, I have a dresser that I just finished up that I’ll be sharing on Friday.  See you then!


how to dress for cold weather.

I was googling up some good cold weather quotes to use for this post and I saw this one:


I never follow that advice though.  If I did, I’d probably have to stay in bed for about six months out of the year here in Minnesota.

I was exchanging emails with one of my readers over the past weekend and I mentioned to her that it was 11 below zero here.  She’s from Los Angeles, and she was wondering if anyone goes outside when it’s that cold (yes, I’m talking about you Connie!).

So the next day, when my sister, niece and I decided to go to Como Park for the afternoon I was thinking about Connie’s question.  As it turns out, yes Connie, we do go out when it’s that cold.  Sometimes we even go to the zoo.  We just have to dress accordingly.

That’s my niece Kris, my sister Debbie, and then me on the right.  I have to mention, that hat I’m wearing is the warmest hat I’ve ever owned.  It’s fleece on the inside and faux fur and knitted on the outside, and you can wrap those furry tails around under your chin to keep your neck warm.  Super toasty.

I found it rather comical that masks were required even in outdoor areas at the Como Zoo.  Do you think Covid can live in sub-zero temperatures?  Does anyone know?

Well, no matter.  The masks were great for keeping our faces warm.

One of the big benefits to going to the zoo on super cold days is that you have the place practically to yourselves.  Pretty much none of the benches are taken.

Another benefit is that the polar bear is really active.  He (she?  I don’t know which polar bear this was and the zoo has three of them) was in and out of the water (just look at that steam coming off of him), rolling around in the snow and trying to get that frozen hunk of meat detached from the ice.

And also apparently posing for photos.  My sister took that photo.

Other animals that seemed oblivious to the cold were the reindeer, the arctic foxes, the wolves, and the bison.  They were all out and about.

But for those humans that don’t happen to be cold weather lovers, you can always head inside the conservatory.

Once inside you’ll find lots of tropical plants …

not to mention lots of people trying to pretend like they live in a tropical climate in January.  I saw one girl meditating in the lotus position on a bench in the fern room.  I’m fairly sure she was chanting in her head “I’m in the Bahamas, I’m in the Bahamas, I’m in the Bahamas” or something like that.

But really the main reason I like to go this time of year is to see the poinsettia display.  I almost missed it, but it runs through January 9 so we made it in time.  They had an interesting display for 2021 with red, orange and yellow ones.

The red one in that photo is a new variety called ‘Christmas Mouse’ because of its more rounded bracts that resemble the shape of mouse ears.

I love that they change it up every year, but I have to admit that this particular color combination was not one of my favorites.  It was very cheerful and colorful, but I’m just not a a yellow and orange girl.  And definitely not for Christmas.

As we were heading out after our visit to Como Park, all three of us agreed that our favorite part of the day was having the outside mainly to ourselves.  I guess all three of us are truly Minnesotan’s at heart.  Not only do we prefer cool temperatures outdoors, but we also prefer cool colors in our poinsettias.

and I’m back.

Why is it that vacations go by so quickly.  It feels like you’re anticipating it for so long, and then bam!  You’re already back home again.

My sister and I had a great time visiting our mom again.  After our last visit, I shared the makeover we did on her patio …

It was fun to be back to see how things were holding up.  Unfortunately, I totally dropped the ball on getting an updated photo for you guys.  But I can tell you that most of the plants I put in died (due to temps in the 100’s, and my mom in the hospital and unable to water regularly), but the bougainvillea (pink flowering plant in the pot shown above) was doing great and in fact we had to go out and get a trellis for it because it had gotten so big.

My mom was also doing great.  After my last visit in March I was really worried about her health, but she seems to be doing much better now (knock on wood).  I could tell that she was feeling better by the amount of cooking she did for us!  She made our favorite pork chops, corn casserole, egg bake, two kinds of strawberry desserts, homemade caramel rolls and lasagna.  It was awesome.

My sister and I also took full advantage of the fact that her new townhouse (my mom downsized from her 4 bedroom house to a two bedroom townhouse in January 2021) has a pool.  This was our view every afternoon …

It was in the 90’s with a perfectly blue sky every day we were there, and we pretty much had the pool all to ourselves (except one afternoon when two other people were there).  We just relaxed by the pool and did some reading each day.  It really was heavenly.

We also visited the Henderson Bird Sanctuary while at my mom’s house.

It was a lovely day, and we enjoyed the visit.  But I have to say we didn’t see very many birds … with the exception of the mechanical kind.  The sanctuary seems to be located right under a flight path to the Vegas airport and those airplanes kept coming in one after another, after another, like clockwork.

My sister and I also checked out Ethel M Chocolates in Henderson.  It’s a great place to buy some really expensive (and delicious) chocolates, but they also have a lovely botanical cactus garden, one of the nicest I’ve seen (compared to a couple I’ve been to in the south of France, like this one).

They had started putting up lights for Christmas already, and I’m just betting that they put on an amazing holiday display.

It was quite hot the afternoon we visited, and you might wonder how you can get your chocolate home safely in those kind of temperatures, but they put ice packs in your shopping bag along with the chocolate.  Isn’t that a thoughtful detail?

Probably the most fun part of our trip was heading off to Disneyland though.  My sister and I took a quick flight from Las Vegas to the John Wayne airport in Orange County, and then we spent 4 nights at the Grand Californian in Disneyland.

It had been a while since we’d visited the original Disney park.  I’d almost forgotten how much smaller it is, especially that castle.  See it down there, at the end of Main Street?

It’s almost comically small compared to the one at Disney World.  But hey, back in Walt’s day I bet it was totally magical, definitely something never seen before in an amusement park.

By the way, that gal driving the horse drawn carriage is Ashley, and she was super friendly and told us all about how they care for the horses that work at Disneyland, and how they used to have some stables on the land that is now part of Galaxy’s Edge, but now they have relocated them to a ranch that is about 30 miles away.

My biggest q tip for you today, if you ever visit a Disney park, is to always make a point of chatting with the cast members (that’s what they call the employees there).  They are always super friendly and informative, and on this trip in particular they were all really enthusiastic and welcoming.  I think maybe they are all just really happy to be back at work after the park was closed for more than a year due to covid.

One of the highlights of our visit was seeing the Haunted Mansion all decked out for Halloween.

My photo doesn’t really do it justice, but it was covered in candelabras that flickered as though loaded with 100’s of real candles, and there were jack o’lanterns everywhere.  It was perfectly spooky!

We also enjoyed having some drinks in Oga’s Cantina in Galaxy’s Edge.

We had some super geeked out Star Wars fans at the table next to us and they were wearing full on Star Wars costumes and brandishing their new light sabers.  So fun!

I’m back in the real world now though, and planning to spend the weekend out in my workshop starting work on some of my Christmas items (I know, I know, way too early, but it will be here before we know it).  How about you?  Are you starting to think about Christmas decorations already?  And tell me, have any of you been to both Disneyland and Disney World?  Which is your favorite?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

who needs tuscany when you have farmington?

A while back my … gosh … I don’t really know what to call her … my virtual work colleague?  I was initially thinking my ‘online friend’ but that seems to have the wrong connotation 😉 Basically, Deb is the contractual ambulance biller assigned to our account at my day job.  We have one of those work relationships that are conducted almost entirely over the phone and via email.  I’m pretty sure I’d literally only met her in person twice (or was it even only once?), but I speak with her on the phone several times a week and email her almost daily.  Recently she purchased the Farm Fresh Shelf from me and when she and her husband came to pick it up we got to chatting, and they invited us to help with their grape picking this year.

Deb and her husband own Crazy Legs Vineyard in Farmington, MN (check out their Facebook page).  They sell their grapes wholesale to local wineries.  As soon as she mentioned it, I knew that such an event would be great fun for me and my sister.

So bright and early this past Saturday, Debbie (my sister, the other Debbie in this story) and I loaded up the Bug with some lawn chairs and garden gloves, put the top down, and headed to Farmington.

As soon as we got there I knew we were in for a treat.  Just check out that barn!

And the gardens …

I wanted to just take a tour of the place rather than getting straight to the grape picking!

I absolutely loved this little side building …

Wouldn’t that be a charming spot for a little vintage shop?

I don’t actually know what’s inside.  It’s probably used for something far more practical.  But it sure is cute, and I love the arrangements in the window boxes.

Without a doubt, they just made the grapevine wreaths (I’m guessing they have plenty of vines to hand), and it looks like they might be painted in a faded barn red (I may have to borrow that idea for my own fall décor this year).

And isn’t this little courtyard area next to the pole barn charming?

They had a really fun and unique combination of flowers in the window boxes here.

I tried Angelonia (tall purple one in the center) in my front window boxes once and they were a complete failure, but they look amazing here.  I’ve never had great luck with Torenia (low purple ones on the side) either.  And I love how they combined these with the variegated New Guinea Impatiens.  Really unique and pretty fabulous.

Ultimately, I had to tear myself away from my own self-guided tour to do some actual grape picking though.

After some quick instructions on what to do, we set to work.

These vines were just loaded with grapes.

Apparently hot, sunny and dry is great grape growing weather.

We picked  a lot of grapes!

OK, we didn’t pick all of those ourselves, but we did pick a lot!

I was surprised when I loaded that photo onto my computer and realized that you can barely even see the bees.  There were A LOT of bees buzzing around that container.

  They were making quite a racket!

Here’s a quick q tip for you, if you are afraid of bees, or allergic to their sting, then grape picking might not be for you.

But neither of us were bothered by the bees, for whatever reason they didn’t seem to mind that we were cutting away their grapes.  They just moved on to the next bunch.  There really were plenty of grapes for all.

By noon, we were pretty much grape picked out.  Our gloves were totally saturated with grape juice and it was starting to get pretty hot out there under the noon-day sun.  Luckily it was time for lunch, wine, and some live music.

I totally enjoyed the band, The Dang Ol’ Tri’ole.  It was the perfect afternoon for sitting in the shade, enjoying a glass of wine and listening to some music.

To cap off the event, Deb’s son shot a cannon out of his … I don’t what you would call this thing … a giant pumpkin shooting cannon thingie …

Oh, and just to be clear, that little guy in the photo is not Deb’s son.  He was a spectator.

I’m fairly sure that someone in the next county over is wondering where that smashed pumpkin in their corn field came from.  Deb was just hoping it didn’t hit someone’s cow.  I don’t even know how far away that pumpkin landed, I never did see it come down!

And speaking of pumpkins …

They also grow pumpkins and squash at Crazy Legs Vineyard, and they sell them at the end of their driveway.

In addition to your typical orange pumpkins, they had lots of white ones …

plus a bunch of really unique varieties that I managed to not get a photo of.  I did manage to purchase a couple of them though, along with a few unusual gourds, and here they are …

I’m not exactly sure yet how I’m going to use these, but I’m sure something will come to me!

As we were heading down the driveway when we first arrived, we were chatting with another couple that was there for grape picking.  They joked that they couldn’t go to Tuscany this year, but this was the next best thing.  I have to say, I think this was even better!  Beautiful scenery, grape picking with friends, delicious pasta and wine for lunch, followed by live music.  We’d have paid a fortune to do that in Tuscany, and this was totally free (except for the pumpkins I purchased at the end) and no need for the 10 hour flight.

Who needs Tuscany when you have Farmington?

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.