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!

the most magical place on earth.

My sister and I are back from our stay at Disney World, also known as the most magical place on earth (in case you didn’t know, Disneyland is the happiest place on earth).

We stayed at one of Disney’s newest hotels, the Gran Destino in Coronado Springs.

This is considered a ‘moderate’ resort, meaning it’s not a budget (ie. cheap) resort and it’s not a deluxe (ie. expensive) resort, it’s somewhere in the middle.  Usually we stay at the budget resorts.  We consider the room a place to sleep and that’s about it, so why spend extra money on it.  But this time we splurged.

When we booked our trip this hotel was still under construction.  It opened in July, so we thought it would be fun to stay in a brand new hotel.  Just in case you’re interested, I’ll give you what I thought were the pros and cons of staying at the Gran Destino.

First, the pros.  The hotel and grounds were gorgeous and everything was fresh and new.  The room itself was nice although not really terribly special except for the view.  The view from our room was spectacular.

We had chosen a ‘water view’ room and since it faced west we had a beautiful view of the sunset.  Of course, we ended up being in our room for the sunset exactly one time.  Still, it was lovely.  We were not able to see any fireworks in any of the parks from our room though.  The only park we could really see was Animal Kingdom.  That ‘mountain’ on the horizon at the left of my photo above is Expedition Everest.

Another really great thing about a room in the tower is that when you return from the parks completely exhausted after spending hours on your feet, you just have to walk up a staircase from the bus stop, through the lobby and to the elevator.  Then it’s just a short ride up to your floor and down the hall to your room.  At many of the other Disney World resorts it can be quite a hike from the bus stop to your room and you tend to start dreading it at the end of each day.

As for the cons to the Gran Destino, I think they are still working out some kinks in the actual operations at the hotel.  We were there for 7 nights, and our room was only cleaned 3 times.  The first day we were missed we were told that they were short staffed that day, but it continued to happen.  We were able to call down to housekeeping to get fresh towels, so it wasn’t too big of a hardship.  Still, I was expecting more from an upgraded (to us anyway) hotel.

We also had issues with getting our luggage.  We waited more than 3 hours for our luggage to be brought up to our room.  We called down twice and were told it was on its way each time.  Finally when we called again they suggested it would be faster to just come down and get it from bell services.  Gosh!  If they’d just said that in the first place we would have been happy to go get it and save ourselves three hours of waiting.

So my q tip for you today is to handle your own luggage if you don’t want to wait hours for it to arrive in your room.

One of the highlights of our trip was enjoying some of EPCOT’s food and wine experiences.

If you aren’t familiar, the Food & Wine Festival takes place from late August through mid-November.  There are kiosks throughout the World Showcase that have small plates and beverages from countries around the world.  It’s a great way to sample new things.

I was telling one of my co-workers about this before we left on our trip and she thought these were free samples, so just to be clear, that is not the case.  It really adds up fairly quickly.  For example the charcuterie board was $6.50 and flight of wines shown above cost $9.50.  On our first afternoon in EPCOT we spent $69 on food and wine.  But we split everything, so really $35/person isn’t terrible and it is really fun to wander around the world showcase trying different food and wines.

Another highlight of our trip was attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

This was the second time we’ve attended this separately ticketed event, and we learned a few great tips this time around.

First of all, by ‘separately ticketed event’ I mean that you pay extra for this party.  We paid $115 each for our tickets (prices vary depending on the date you attend).  However, you do not have to pay for regular park admission that day as well.  We planned this for our first day in Orlando and we did not pay for regular park admission that day.  We could show up in the Magic Kingdom starting at 4 pm and stay until the end of the party at midnight.  Since our flight arrived at 1:30, and we knew we wouldn’t be checked into our hotel and ready to head to the park until after 4 pm anyway, this made perfect sense for us.

The No So Scary party has a unique parade that is fantastic, and the most awesome fireworks show.  There are also treat trails throughout the park that hand out ‘free’ candy, and believe me when I say they are extremely generous with the candy.  There are also special characters around the park including that guy up above with my sister.

As you can imagine, they really play it up at the Haunted Mansion with special effects and extra characters.

We were also able to get on tons of rides with really low wait times.  I don’t think we waited more than 10 to 15 minutes for anything, even the coveted Peter Pan.  Not all of the rides are open, but most are.

So if you’ve ever thought about going to the Not So Scary party, I totally recommend it.  Just try to do it on a day when you haven’t already paid for park admission.

There were two ‘lands’ in the parks that were new to us this trip, Toy Story Land …

and Galaxy’s Edge, both in Hollywood Studios.

You may be tempted to think that the photo in Galaxy’s Edge was taken at night, but no.  In order to avoid the crowds, we took advantage of the extra magic hours offered to people staying on Disney property and we went to Hollywood studios at 6 a.m.  The sun wasn’t up yet.  That gave us the opportunity to see it in the ‘dark’ when we first arrived.

As is usual for Disney, the theming in both lands was impeccable.

Neither of us are really Star Wars fans though, so I have to admit we did not even attempt to get on the only ride open so far in this land.  My sister wanted to give priority to the rides in Toy Story Land, so after just taking a few photos in Galaxy’s Edge we headed over there.  By the time we came back after the sun was up, the line for Smuggler’s Run was a two hour wait and people were continuing to pour in.

We decided to save trying the new ride for our next Disney vacation.

I’m saving the story of the best part of our trip for another post, so be sure to check back next week for that one.

In the meantime, as always, I’m really glad to be home.  I’m itching to get my paint brushes out soon.  So I’ll have some painted furniture and other fun projects to share with you guys plus I’ll be continuing my house tour posts starting on Wednesday.  But first, I may need to sleep for about a week to recover from Disney!

see ya real soon.

I’m super excited to be headed off to Orlando, Florida this morning with my sister!

She and I have been going to Disney parks for 50 years!  Our first trip was to Disneyland in 1969 when I was 5 and she was 8.

We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve gone since then.  There were some decades in there when life got in the way and we weren’t able to go, and there was also a period of time when we lived in Florida so we went quite a lot.  But lately we’ve managed to get to either Disneyland or Disney World at least every other year.

Debbie’s daughter (a.k.a. my niece Kris) usually joins us …

and sometimes my mom joins us too.

but this time it’s just the two of us.

We’ve been known to behave like complete dorks while we are there.

But of course, that’s part of the fun.  Everybody gets to act like a kid in Disney World, right?

We’ll be there for nine days.  I’m sure I’ll be totally wiped out by the end.  I may act like a child, but I definitely don’t have the energy of a kid.

We’re planning to adopt a more leisurely pace than usual though (we’ll just see if we can stick with that plan).

So, I’ll be back a week from Saturday and in the meantime I’ll be taking a break from the blog.  So try not to miss me, and I’ll see ya real soon!

surely not everybody was kung fu fighting.

A couple of weeks back my sister, niece and I decided to take a ‘Sunday drive’ on a beautiful, sunny Saturday.  We didn’t have a specific destination in mind.  It was a gorgeous day and I am lucky enough to drive a VW Beetle convertible, so we headed out with the top down.

We decided to cross over the new Stillwater bridge into Wisconsin first because my niece had yet to cross over it.

This bridge was finished in 2017 and was quite the controversy.  People had very strong opinions about whether or not (and where, and how) it should be built, and thus it took years and years for it to happen.  However, the old Stillwater lift bridge was built in 1931 and was definitely on its last legs.  After the tragedy of the 35W bridge collapse, I was certainly a little leery of driving over that creaky old bridge!

You can barely see the old lift bridge off in the distance in this photo taken from the new bridge …

The old bridge is in the more historical downtown part of Stillwater, which is where Mr. Q and I went for drinks on our anniversary back in June.

The new bridge is in the more commercial part of town, so the modern aesthetic makes a little more sense here.

We still had to decide which way to head after crossing over?  North?  or South?

My niece came up with a plan for letting fate decide.  If the next car we saw had a Minnesota license plate we were going to head north, and if it was a Wisconsin plate we were going south.  I’m not sure what we would have done if it was neither!  But it was a Wisconsin plate, so we headed south.

We hadn’t gone far when I spotted a bright pink sign that said “Epic Sale!”  Well, if it’s epic you pretty much have to stop, right?

And that’s where I found this piece …

Clearly it was meant to be and the universe was guiding me towards this particular desk 😉

I am almost done with this piece now, but I’m waiting for a particular Prima Marketing transfer to arrive to finish it up, so I’ll be sharing that later this week.  For today, I’ll just finish my Sunday drive on a Saturday story.

After stopping at the sale (and texting Mr. Q to come and pick up the desk I purchased), we headed into Hudson, WI for lunch at the Smiling Moose where I had the St. Croix Chicken Salad which was absolutely delicious.

Next we decided to check out Willow River State Park.

I’ve lived in the Twin Cities for over 30 years and had never made the hike to the falls on Willow River.

You’ve all seen those photos of people frolicking in the Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica right …

I’ve always wanted to do that, it looks so refreshing.

Well little did I know that I could have been doing that right here in my own backyard all along.

After hiking down a fairly steep trail (which we were dreading having to climb back up again) we came to the falls.  And there were already a few other people there.  Ha!  Yep, apparently everybody else in the Twin Cities already knew about this place.

Unfortunately we hadn’t brought swimsuits or towels, so we didn’t go in the water this time.  But now we know about this not-so-hidden gem, so maybe we’ll make it back there for a swim next time.

After exploring more of the park and doing a lit bit more hiking, we returned to the car and decided to head back north towards home.  We were tooling along on a country road when we came across a sign that had us all laughing out loud.  I just had to stop the car and get a photo.

Surely not everybody was kung fu fighting.  After all, how could they be?  They were all swimming at Willow River Falls!

After that photo stop we came across a sign that said ‘Rustic Road’.

We had no idea what qualified as a Rustic Road, but we were intrigued and decided we really needed to check it out.  So we turned off and headed down Trout Brook Road.  I wish I’d taken the time to stop and get a few pictures, but I didn’t.  Suffice to say it was a lovely drive, perfect for a sunny afternoon in a convertible.

I have since googled it and found the website that explains Wisconsin’s Rustic Road program:

The Rustic Roads program was created over 40 years ago to provide hikers, bicyclists and motorists an opportunity to leisurely travel through the state’s scenic countryside. Today, there are 120 designated Rustic Roads spanning more than 724 miles through 59 counties. They are beautiful in every season.

What is a Rustic Road?

Every Rustic Road is unique, but all:

  • have outstanding natural features along its borders such as rugged terrain, native vegetation, native wildlife or include open areas with agricultural vistas.
  • are lightly traveled local access roads, serving the adjacent property owners and those wishing to travel by auto, bicycle, or hiking for purposes of recreational enjoyment.
  • are not scheduled nor anticipated for major improvements which would change their rustic characteristics.
  • are at least two miles long and often provide a completed closure or loop, or connect to major highways at both ends of the route.


Seriously, how cool is that?  You can bet there will be more Rustic Road travels in our future. I bet they are beautiful in the fall

or even in winter.

Do you have a Rustic Road program where you are?  Or have you traveled on some of Wisconsin’s Rustic Roads?  If so I’d love to hear about it in the comments.  And be sure to check back on Wednesday to continue the tour of my home, or on Friday to see what I’ve done with that fabulous secretary desk!

out on the farm.


A while back I shared the adorable little washstand that I restyled using Prima Marketing’s Out on the Farm transfer …

That was a super popular piece on social media, and it also sold within 12 hours of posting it on Facebook Marketplace.  The gal who purchased it loves barns and was so excited about it, I love those kinds of sales, don’t you?  I suspect that retailers are going to have a difficult time keeping this one in stock.

But today’s blog post isn’t really about the Out on the Farm transfer, instead it’s about literally being out on the farm.  Last week my mom, sister and I drove out to Arlington, South Dakota to the family farm for the 4th of July.

Currently my cousin Travis and his wife Deb own the farm.  They’ve recently added on to the house to have a little more space (and more bathrooms) for their six kids.

However, this is still the farm that my grandmother, Carrie Moe, was born on in 1898.

Wasn’t she a little cutie?

I always seem to come back home from these trips with a few more old photos to add to my growing pile.  This visit was no exception and I brought home the one above and this fantastic wedding photo of my grandparents.

They were married in the 1920’s and I think the style of my grandmother’s veil was particularly popular in that time period.  Check out her shoes too, some designs are just timeless (the shoes, not the veil not so much).

They’ve had quite a lot of rain in South Dakota this year, so everything is as green as can be.

But they also have a lot of standing water.  In fact, my cousin now has ‘lake front’ property and he even put in a dock.

Unfortunately, it also means that sections of the road he lives on are entirely underwater.  Here’s a close up of that view showing the road, or at least the markers that indicate where it is.

It was rather entertaining to watch people deciding whether or not to chance driving through the water.  Some turned around in Trav’s driveway and went back the way they came, but others made their way through creating a wake behind them.

We always have the best time visiting the cousins out on the farm.

Although I consider myself a die hard city girl, there is something about those wide open spaces that really speaks to me.

When I saw a couple of farmhouse decorating magazines while doing a little shopping out there I realized I needed to continue my tradition of giving away some magazines here on the blog upon my return from traveling.

Sure, this was just a short trip to South Dakota, but why not?  And this time the magazines are in English!

To add a little bit extra while sticking with my farmhouse theme, I’m also going to throw in some Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint in Farmhouse White.

The rules:  to be eligible to win today’s prize leave a comment on this blog post letting me know whether you are a city slicker or a country bumpkin.  Your comment must be left on the blog, 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, July 12, 2019 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 $45, if the prize is not claimed by Sunday, July 14, another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

Good luck!

stranded in paradise.

 A while back my friend Meggan suggested that I start titling my travel blog posts ‘stranded in insert current travel location here‘.  Some of you may not get the joke if you don’t realize that our last name is Strand.  Get it?  Strand-ed?

Well, little did I know that a title of that sort would be especially apropos for our latest trip.

But let’s start at the beginning of the story, shall we?

Last week Mr. Q and I were practicing ‘safe social media’.  In other words, we went out of town but decided maybe it was smarter to not announce that to the entire world via things like my blog, Instagram and Facebook.  I hope you guys will allow me a little subterfuge in this regard.

Anyway, we went to Punta Cana!

We really needed a relaxing vacation that didn’t involve expending a lot of energy.  We’d debated just doing a stay-cation, but the reality is that I can’t just unwind at home.   I’m always looking at all of the stuff that needs to be done and then I feel guilty not tackling it.  I really have a hard time not picking up a paint brush when I have a few extra hours at home.

So we decided to book a week at the beach.  I’d been told that Punta Cana has some of the most beautiful beaches, so we found a reasonably priced resort and booked a week long getaway.

The most energetic thing we did all week was get up just after sunrise each morning for a walk on the beach.

It was perfectly gorgeous.

Next we went to the coffee shop at our resort, conveniently named “Mike’s Coffee Shop” (Mr. Q’s name is Mike, in case you didn’t know) where we had pastries and fabulous coffee.

We managed all of this before 8 a.m. and practically had the entire place to ourselves at that hour.  Our only daily companion for coffee was this guy …

He’d just stand there about 5′ away mostly motionless.  I’m sure he was hoping for some scraps to be thrown his way.

I joked with Mr. Q that we were doing ‘rope drop’ at our resort.  Any other Disney park fans out there?  If so, you know all about rope drop.  It’s getting to the park before it opens so that you’re there as soon as the rope drops to let people in.  It’s one of the best ways to get on a few rides before the lines get too long and the crowds become unmanageable.

Well, FYI, it works at resorts on the beach too.

After breakfast we’d head for the beach where my view mostly looked like this …

and occasionally like this …

LOL, that’s looking straight up at the palapa  that we sat under to protect our fair Minnesota skin from the blazing Dominican sunshine.  We went through 4 cans of spray on sunscreen!

We’d periodically get up and go for a swim to cool off, or head to the bar for another drink, but mostly we just enjoyed some serious R&R.

The resort we stayed at, Ocean Blue & Sand, was pretty.  The grounds were immaculately maintained.  Our room was spacious and clean.  But the main thing that stood out for me was the staff.  Everyone we dealt with was so friendly and welcoming.  Despite the fact that Mr. Q and I couldn’t really understand any of their Spanish beyond a few basic words and phrases, their smiling faces spoke volumes.

I have to be honest though, aside from those pastries at the coffee shop, the food was not great (it was all-inclusive) and for that reason we probably would not return to this particular resort.  By the end of the trip our motto was ‘stick with the chicken’ because it was the only thing that was any good.

We’d certainly return to Punta Cana itself though!

I have to admit, seven days of relaxing was more than enough for both of us.  By the last day we were ready to come home and get back into our normal routines.  I was especially looking forward to getting some furniture painted over the remainder of the holiday weekend.  But remember when I said ‘stranded in paradise’ was a good title for this blog post?

Well … yep, we got stranded.

Our return flight was supposed to leave at 5 pm on Saturday.  We got to the airport by about 3 pm and made our way to our gate.

By the way, the airport in Punta Cana is really lovely.

That was a lucky thing since we ended up spending a fair amount of time there.

First we heard that our flight was delayed until 6:30 pm.  Then we heard 8 pm.  And then, it was rescheduled to 9 am on Sunday!  I had visions of trying to sleep on uncomfortable airport benches.

But it was a Sun Country flight, and I have to say they did an amazing job of taking care of us.  They loaded everyone onto a bus and put us all up at an all-inclusive resort for the night free of charge.  The resort they just happened to choose?  Ocean Blue & Sand!  Ha, seriously, what are the chances?  This was not a package vacation, we had booked our resort and flights separately and no one else on the plane had stayed at Ocean Blue so it was purely a coincidence.  Off we went back to our resort for one more night!

Even though we were really looking forward to getting home, we can’t really complain about being stranded in paradise for one extra night.

In the morning Sun Country bused us all back to the airport and our flight actually took off a few minutes early.  I guess when all of your passengers are arriving together it’s easy to make sure everyone is on board and ready to go on time!

So we returned home yesterday afternoon.  I’m all rejuvenated and read to get to work on some more furniture projects.

Oh, but wait, I almost forgot.  All of that extra time in the airport gave me a chance to stick with my travel giveaway tradition.  For those who aren’t familiar, after each of my last several trips I’ve brought back some foreign decorating magazines to giveaway.  This time I only found one, and comically enough it is seriously outdated which I didn’t notice until after I bought it.  And of course, it’s in Spanish.

I’m going to throw in a few Prima Marketing products as well.  I just happen to have a few extras.

Today’s prize includes:  the Micasa magazine, a Ruby Rose transfer, a stencil brush (which also works great as a wax brush), 3 jars of chalk paste and 3 decor waxes.

The basic rules:  to be eligible to win today’s prize leave a comment of any kind on this blog post.  Your comment must be left on the blog, not on Facebook or Instagram.  You are not required to follow my blog, although it would be awesome if you did!

Normally I make a point of answering every comment left on my blog.  If someone takes the time to leave a comment, I like to acknowledge that.  I usually only get 10 to 20 comments so it’s easy to fulfill that promise.  But I suspect I’ll get a few more comments on this post so I’m going to warn you up front that I may not be able to answer each one, so I hope you guys will cut me some slack on that this week.

I will randomly draw the name of a winner for today’s prize from all of the comments left on this post by Friday, May 31, 2019 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 $110, if the prize is not claimed by Sunday, June 2, another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

Good luck!


cumulus & thunder.

You know how they say April showers bring May flowers?  Well, how about April snow, sleet and freezing rain?  That’s what we had here yesterday and I felt so sorry for the vendors at Junk Bonanza.  I hope they still had a great showing!

Last Saturday we also had a few of those April showers, but it was too warm for snow or ice.  That made it the ideal weather for a visit to the American Swedish Institute with Mr. Q, my sister and my niece.

The American Swedish Institute is housed in the Turnblad Mansion which was built between 1904 and 1908 for Swan and Christina Turnblad.  Swan Turblad made his fortune in the newspaper business and by making good investments.  Interestingly enough, according to Wikipedia, ‘The family moved into their new home in 1908.  While it was their official residence, they spent most of their time living in an apartment across the street after 1915.  After Turnblad’s wife died in 1929, he and his daughter moved into the apartment full-time and turned their former home into a museum.’

That kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it?  Swan was descended from generations of Swedish farmers.  Perhaps having come from such humble beginnings he felt out of place in such a massive home.  Or maybe the house was simply too large to heat well during cold Minnesota winters.  I don’t know, I couldn’t find an explanation as to why they didn’t live in the mansion much.

 It definitely has a foreboding appearance in the gloom though, don’t you think?  It reminds me a bit of the Haunted Mansion in Disney World …

Maybe that’s the real reason the Turnblad’s didn’t inhabit it for long, it’s haunted!

Currently (through April 28) the ASI is exhibiting surreal photography by Swedish photographer/visual artist Erik Johansson.  If you are local you really should try to get there to see this exhibit.  There are some amazing, thought-provoking pieces like this one called The Cover-Up.

Actually, pretty much every piece is amazing.  I loved this one called Leap of Faith.

If you look closely at the yellow diamond sign on the staircase, it says ‘one balloon p.p.’.  Don’t we all feel a little bit like that some days as we head off to work with our briefcase in hand and our one allotted balloon?  Or is it just me?

My sister really liked a piece called Impact.

They were showing a short video explaining how Johannson creates his art (here’s a link if you’d like to watch the video for this piece).  There is far more work behind these images than I realized.

As we were wandering around the exhibit there were moments when I couldn’t decide what I should be looking at, the photography or the mansion itself.

I was torn between looking up at the beautiful ceilings …

or checking out some of the 11 tile stoves imported from Sweden …

But in the end it was definitely the thought-provoking art that drew my eye.

 I was totally fascinated by a piece called Demand & Supply.

Take a closer look at what is happening in that photo.  Those backhoes are digging away at the very precarious structure that is holding up that entire city above.  It definitely makes you pause for a moment to consider the implications.

I’ll leave you with this charming photo called Cumulus & Thunder.

I guess this explains where all of those clouds came from last weekend!

I’m sure glad they were there though because we had a really enjoyable time at the ASI.  I’m not sure we would have chosen to go there had it been a gorgeous, sunny, spring day.

Be sure to check out Erik Johansson’s website to see more of his work (and definitely some better images of his photos than that ones I took above).  And if you are local and you’re looking for something to do while the snow melts this weekend, I highly recommend checking out this exhibit before it closes at the end of the month.

la serenissima.

Today I’m sharing the final port of call on the Adriatic cruise that Mr. Q and I took last November, Venice.

Back in December I jumped ahead and shared part of our day in Venice, the tour of the velvet workshop, because it inspired my handmade Christmas wrapping paper.

But today I’ll share a few more photos from our visit to the Most Serene Republic of Venice, or La Serenissima.

I suspect that many people who visit Venice don’t find it serene at all.  Especially if they only go to St. Mark’s Square and the surrounding sights.  However, should you be lucky enough to sail into Venice on a cruise ship in the early hours of morning you might be able to capture the serenity.

This was the second time Mr. Q and I have arrived in Venice by cruise ship and it really is the most amazing thing.  You sail right down the Guidecca Canal passing beautiful Venetian buildings that look like they could sink below the waterline at any moment.

Back in 2017 Venice came up with a plan to divert large cruise ships from this route, but that won’t take effect until 2021.  I totally understand why they want to do this, while at the same time I consider myself really fortunate to have had this experience before it becomes obsolete.  So, FYI, if you’ve always wanted to do this you’d better book that cruise soon.

As I wrote in my earlier post, we hired a private guide in Venice.  Her name is Luisella Romeo and she was absolutely amazing.  So if you are booking that cruise soon, I’d recommend booking Luisella for a tour while you’re at it.

After spending time touring the velvet workshop, we headed across the Guidecca Canal by Vaporetto (water bus) to the Fortuny workshop with Luisella.  Once again she had arranged a totally private tour for just us.

Fortuny makes beautiful dyed fabrics.  However, they are extremely protective of their proprietary process.  So, unlike the Bevilaqua velvet workshop where we saw every step of the process, at Fortuny we only saw the showroom.

But that’s OK, it wasn’t really the fabric I was interested in, it was the garden that is tucked away behind the building.

I have to admit, November probably wasn’t the most impressive time to be visiting this garden.

Nonetheless, I totally enjoyed its serene, early winter beauty.

Even on this rainy day it was really lovely.

Unfortunately our time with Luisella was done after the Fortuny visit.  Had we realized how amazing she was going to be we definitely would have booked her for the entire day.  But we hadn’t, and she had another group scheduled for the afternoon.

So we parted ways, but not before she gave us some ideas of where to go next, drew the route on our map for us and made sure we knew which Vaporetto to get on and which stop to get off at.  She suggested we walk past the gondola workshop, or squero.  The Squero San Trovaso first opened in the 17th century.

You can’t actually tour the place, but it was still interesting to see it from across the canal and watch the craftsman at work.

Although Luisella had given us a couple of other suggestions for where to go from here, we ended up deciding to just wander around the quieter areas of Venice away from the rest of the tourists.

We knew we couldn’t get too lost, it is an island after all.

We just took our time and enjoyed the scenery.  Not everyone is enamored by the graceful decay of Venice, but I definitely think it’s beautiful.

Comically enough, we had just started to realize how hungry and tired we were when we looked up and realized we could see our ship from where we were.  It was easy enough to make our way back to the People Mover and then back to our ship.

I’ve really enjoyed sharing this trip with you guys.  I get to relive it myself while putting these Wednesday blog posts together.  I’m a little bummed to see it end (although I do have some semi-related posts coming up still).  I think Mr. Q and I are going to have to get busy planning our next trip so that I have more travel stories to share!

How about you, have you ever been to Venice?  And if so, were you able to find some serene spaces away from the tourist hordes?