Archive for the ‘minnesota’ Category

Our last couple of days in Minnesota were packed with more water, more family time, plenty of porch-sitting and sunset-gazing.  I had eased into country life, and it felt good.

We spent Sunday afternoon out on Blackwell Lake, floating aimlessly on Doug and Val’s pontoon.

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Shane, not usually one for swimming, couldn’t resist the chance to dive and swing and cannonball.

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With that life jacket strapped on, he was the perfect flotation device.

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Juliette loved being on the boat, especially when Doug put the pedal to the metal and the wind blew through our hair.  She’d laugh like crazy and yell, “Super-faster!  SUPER-FASTER!!!”

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I shutter to think what this kid will be like when she’s old enough to get behind the wheel for real.  Watch out, folks!

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I’m so glad we got to catch up with this crew.  It’s a special feeling, being with people that have known Shane and I since before we were “Shane and I”!

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Jules was wired from our boating bonanza, so I put her in the stroller for a walk when we got back to the house, hoping she’d chill out and doze.  But then we came across these dang cows and she was over the moon again!

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She eventually crashed, waking from her nap just in time to give Purple Baby a sunset bath on the porch.

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This porch swing was my happy place…

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Monday morning, it was Juliette’s and Grandpa’s happy place, too!  It makes my heart flip-flop, seeing how fiercely this guy loves his granddaughter.

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We had hoped to spend Monday afternoon back out on the water, but gray skies and drizzle kept us from putting on our swimsuits.  We settled instead for a trip to Carlos Creek Winery and a drink on the patio.

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We gathered with the whole gang for dinner at Zorbaz that night and then walked across the street to Lake Le Homme Dieu for one last water-fix and a quick family snapshot.

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The rest of the evening was spent…back on that beloved porch!  Shane staged his own version of the Olympics by pulling up the stopwatch app on his phone and challenging the kids to dart from one end of the house to the other in under ten seconds.  They took the challenge very seriously.

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Super-faster, Jules, SUPER-FASTER!

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A final sunset (a few final mosquito bites), a round of teary hugs, and…that was it.  We were off to the airport before sunrise on Tuesday morning.  I missed that place and those people before we’d even turned out of the driveway.  There’s a lotta beauty, a lotta peace, a whole lotta love in that little corner of the Midwest.

Saturday was sunny and warm – perfect parade-goin’ weather!  We staked out a spot on the sidewalk of downtown Garfield (I use the word “downtown” very loosely, with a town population of 350!) and settled in for Juliette’s first parade.

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The festivities began with some old dudes carrying flags and the singing of the National Anthem – at this point, Juliette had yet to be sold on the whole ordeal.

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And then…candy started flying out the windows of the trucks and tractors that passed us by.  Now this kid was on board!

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Shane’s special treat?  Gin and tonics from the pub conveniently located just behind us.  I mean, gotta stay hydrated, right?

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Hey…I know that face!

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27 tractors and 10 pounds of candy later, we threw our loot in the car and drove over to Lake Latoka to cool off in the water.

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All those years of visiting Minnesota of the dead of winter…I had no idea what we were missing out on!

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“I’m kicking, Mama!  I’m kicking so much!”

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After a post-swim PB&J and a round of frisbee, we packed it up.  Reluctantly.  I coulda hung out in the shade of that tree all day, but naptime beckoned.

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In the evening we gathered at Denny’s shop for his 60th birthday bash.  One pickup after another rolled up as half the town turned out to wish him well.  I was thankful for a few familiar faces and thrilled by the chance to catch up with Shane’s Aunt Val, as she and I go waaaay back.  Almost 20 years ago, she hired me as a baby-sitter.  I fell in love with her family, then really fell in love with her foxy Minnesotan nephew when he moved in with them for a summer internship in Turlock (Doug and Val should get a match-making medal!).  I was initially bummed when the Schnells left California for Washington, but when I landed a job in Seattle a couple of years later, Val took me under her wing, giving me a place to stay while I looked for an apartment.  She was there when I signed my first post-college lease and pushed the cart on my subsequent Bed Bath & Beyond shopping spree.  The countless meals I ate at their table did so much to ease my loneliness as I eagerly waited for Shane to move up to Seattle.  Doug and Val left Washington a few years ago and I realized Saturday night how dearly I’ve missed them.

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Hey, Birthday Boy!

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There was eating (so. much. pork!) and drinking and merriment…

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A few hugs for Grandpa’s tractor…

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A round of rides on the Gator…

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A pepper-hunt in Grandpa’s garden…

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And then, the sure-fire signs of a storm on the horizon.  That sky.

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The threat of rain wasn’t gonna get this crew down, though – there was still partying to do!

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I’m not entirely sure who this girl is or how her family knows Denny and Pat, but whatever – I turned around and Jules had a new best buddy!

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Eventually the skies completely opened up and everyone took refuge indoors while it poured and poured.  We let Jules run for a few minutes in the warm summer rain and then called a day.  Sun, sugar, swimming, Schnells…these are a few of her favorite things.

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I have fond memories of our many Thanksgivings in Minnesota – the snowfalls and the smoked turkeys and the Black Friday shopping with my mother-in-law – but since we had Juliette, we figured it’s best to visit the Midwest in the summer, to avoid the sub-freezing temps and let her run free outdoors.  And so last Wednesday we made the long train-plane-automobile voyage to Alexandria to visit Shane’s family.  Grandma and Grandpa, here we come!

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It was a long day of travel, but Jules held it together pretty well, protesting only when she was forced to put up her tray table during the plane’s descent.  We rolled up to Denny and Pat’s house around dinnertime, and once we opened that car door, this kid was ready to run.

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Shane’s sister and her family came over and we spent the evening catching up, enjoying grown-up conversation while Juliette played with her adoring older cousins.  Shanay French-braided her hair, Hayden read to her, and Shane’s mom fired up the blender for a batch of pina coladas.  We were officially on vacation!

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Shane and I left Juliette with Grandma and Grandpa on Thursday morning and jetted out for a quick run.  I like to think I’m a city girl, but gosh, I do love being out in the country, soaking in the unending stretches of green and wide open skies.

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I do not, however, love the 95 percent humidity.  Wowsers.

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We rushed home, not sure if Juliette was distressed over our leaving her.  Turns out, I’m not sure if she even noticed we were gone!

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We freshened up and then headed into town to run a few errands – these cool cats were ready to roll!

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The most important stop on our itinerary?  ICE CREAM!

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We enjoyed a lazy afternoon back at the house, and then dropped off Juliette at vacation Bible school with her aunt and cousins so that we could savor a kid-free dinner out with Shane’s parents to celebrate Denny’s 60th birthday.  What a luxury to eat my ribs and sip my wine flight without chasing down crayons that have fallen on the floor or listening to a toddler plead for one more french fry!

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We watched the sunset from Denny and Pat’s porch and then reconvened at the kitchen island, for what became our nightly ritual of laughing and drinking and reminiscing.

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Shane headed out early on Friday morning for a bike ride with Hayden and Avery.  Juliette was a tad young to join, so she settled for a bicycle breakfast on the porch.

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These poor kids had no idea what they were getting into when they agreed to go for a ride with Uncle Shane!  Avery really should have pumped up those tires and left the jeans at home…

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They made it, though, slogging through all 11 miles in the heat and humidity.  Their first words when they rolled up?  “We’re never doing that again!”

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We spent the afternoon across the road at Denny’s shop, tidying up for Saturday’s big birthday bash.

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When the kiddie pool lost its charm, a few of us drove over to Bergen Lake to hang out on the dock.

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Juliette got a kick out of seeing the swarms of bluegills circle below us.

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Shane had a Bear Grylls moment when he lured a fish into a baggie with a bread crumb.  Shane let Juliette give it a quick pat-pat and then released it back to its family.

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We went back to the shop for cold drinks and a final sweep.  Don’t mind the fact that Juliette is actually pushing all the dirt back inside…A for effort?

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I took Juliette back to the house for a nap and she fell asleep before her head even hit the pillow.  I dozed for a bit and then headed back outdoors for a walk, unable to resist the pull of the countryside – three miles logged and not a single car in sight!

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Elizabeth popped a bottle of bubbly on the porch (can you believe I used to baby-sit this girl as a wee little toddler?!) and we devoured several pizzas for dinner.  Shane’s cousin, Ben (who I also used to baby-sit), called us from Georgia, where he just finished his basic training for the U.S. Army.  As I watched everyone huddle around the phone, arms around each other, I was feelin’ the family love something fierce.  These Schnells are such a good bunch.

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We wandered back across the road to the shop after dinner to watch the fellas wrangle the pig into the roaster.  Think this looks intense?  I opened a nearby cooler in search of a drink and found a big bloody pig’s head inside!

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Hayden just got her learner’s permit and logged some driving practice by taking Jules and I for a spin on the Gator.

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Seriously, this farm stuff is just way too good.

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We boarded a plane bound for the great midwest a week ago and after the longest-ever four-hour flight, we landed in Minnesota for a happy reunion with the Schnell clan.  It was 10 pm when we rolled up to Shane’s parents’ house, so we tucked in a tuckered-out girl, did a little catchup with the family, and then fell into bed ourselves, exhausted but relieved to have made it through the journey with only minimal tears (alright, in truth, Jules cried a lot…but I only cried a little!).

After a Friday morning run into town to pick up a few essentials, we spent some time meeting the next door neighbors and Shane’s mom and dad’s new house.

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We went for a walk down the dirt road at the end of their driveway and Jules found a mud puddle she couldn’t resist.  I didn’t have any napkins or wipes on me, so Shane showed her how to wipe her hands on the grass.

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She thought this was a pretty great trick.

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Shane’s sister and nephew came by later that afternoon – Avery warmed up to his uncle the moment Shane offered to toss the football around with him.

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Shane’s dad thought Jules would love checking out his tractor, so we all walked down the road to his shop that evening.

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She was a little skeptical when we first put her in there…

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But then Denny fired that thing up and let her hold the steering wheel – she loves being in the drivers seat.

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She looked on a little enviously when it was Avery’s turn to take it for a spin.

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Our nieces and brother-in-law joined us that evening – felt so good to have the whole gang together!

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Shanay and Hayden were incredibly sweet to Juliette, doting on her, hugging her and reading to her and letting her play with their phones – this girl was in cousin heaven.

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We feasted on burgers and steaks hot off the grill for dinner and crashed hard that night, still a little weary from the previous day’s travel.

On Saturday morning we headed over to Hayden’s school to watch her softball tournament.  It was drizzly and a bit chilly that morning, but Juliette was happy to hang out in the rain and cheer on her cousin.  Getting to sit in the dugout was a major bonus.

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Shane and I left Juliette with Grandma and Grandpa that evening so that we could grab a drink with his sister and brother-in-law.  We did some quality catching up at Sixth Ave Wine and Ale and arrived back at the house just as the skies opened up and the rain started to POUR.

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And POUR.  I thought this was just a typical midwestern thunderstorm, until I heard the guys talking about a tornado watch – a funnel cloud had been spotted a half mile away.  Shane’s mom started pulling out blankets and pillows and piling them in their utility room, in case we needed to take refuge.  Jules looks awfully nervous, doesn’t she?

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We made it through the storm unscathed, but wowsers!  What a night!

We spent Sunday morning at church, celebrating Shanay’s confirmation – she was radiant.  She’s become such a mature, beautiful, kind young woman.

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Juliette sat through the service quietly and contentedly, happy to hop from my lap to Aunt Tiff’s to Grandma’s to Grandpa’s.

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We ate lunch at the church and then took advantage of the sunshine to romp outdoors before naptime.

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Juliette loved the freedom of the wide open spaces – we spend a lot of time outside in Seattle, but this may have been her first opportunity to dance in the middle of the street.

And those horses!  She couldn’t get enough.

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Shane’s mom and I spent the afternoon rearranging furniture in the living room – it was fun for me to help them settle into their new place (they moved in just a few hours before we arrived on Thursday!).  The skies turned gray and we weathered another storm, but it passed quickly.  Those colors, though!  Gorgeous.

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We had an appointment for a family photo shoot at 6:00, but first, the obligatory stop at Big Ole, the town’s pride and joy (see Jules down there, by his foot?).

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We went back to the house after our photo session for pizza and ice cream – I came to love those big family dinners, gathering around the kitchen island while eating and drinking.  Our dining room table has felt especially quiet these past couple days!

Monday was cold – temps had been in the 70’s on Sunday, but had dropped to the 30’s overnight.  We did a little shopping with Shane’s mom that morning and then I told Juliette we’d make good on our promise to take her to a lake to throw rocks.  We hopped out of the car at lake L’Homme Dieu, felt the biting wind and saw the whitecaps on the water and then called it.  We tried.

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We spent the evening at Tiff’s house – Juliette was quite taken with Pinto Bean, their rambunctious shih tzu.

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We let Juliette stay up past her bedtime to eat watermelon with Grandma and Grandpa.  My heart was fit to burst, watching these two love our daughter so openly and generously throughout our stay.

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And then one last story…

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We said our good-byes early Tuesday morning and hit the road to Minneapolis.  The flight back to Seattle was smooth and completely tear-free, so we have lifted Juliette’s previously-imposed travel ban.  It felt good to walk through our front door Tuesday afternoon and settle back into home, but man, those Schnells.  They’re a fun, incredibly kind bunch.  I miss them.

It took a good 24 hours, but I think I’m finally fully thawed – Seattle is by no means hot and toasty, but 5 degrees plus a serious wind chill?  Brrrrrrr….  Freezing temps aside, our last couple of days in Minnesota were full of more warm moments with the family, more relaxing, and plenty more eating.

Once I’d recovered from Thursday’s midnight mall madness (Shane’s mom and I are self-declared suckers for a good deal), Shane and I headed out for a drive on Friday afternoon to enjoy the snow-dusted countryside.  We have a few special spots that we visit each time we’re back – a quiet little stretch of shore at Lake Bergen, the Minnewaska lookout, the Schnell plot at Hudson Cemetery.  And there’s always a stroll down Shane’s memory lane.  We cruise past the field where the neighbor kid took him out for a joy ride in his dad’s car (and then rolled and totaled the car – bussssted!).  I know the 3-mile stretch of road that Shane once rode on his bike without once touching his handlebars.  I know where he used to catch turtles in the summers, the ditch where he would practice snowboarding in the winter.  I like reliving these memories with him, revisiting these places time and again – kind of makes me feel like I’m coming “home” as well.

We rolled out of bed late on Saturday, caught a matinee at the local theater, and then convened with the whole family back at the house for an early Christmas celebration.  There was more turkey, more ham, and a pile of gifts to be opened.

Avery is 8 years old and loves Legos and tractors more than anything in the world.  But check out the grin on this guy’s face when he opened a box full of socks!  What a sport.

For the record, he did also receive toys in abundance – much of the evening was spent assembling this Lego helicopter.

We capped off the evening with a glass of scotch (for the boys), a slice of pumpkin pie, and a rousing round of Catch Phrase, during which Shane’s dad brought me to tears (of laughter) with his impression of Tiny Tim.

We ate our traditional breakfast in Nelson on Sunday morning, and then it was time to hit the road toward Minneapolis to catch our flight.  Much thanks to Shane’s mom and dad for always making us feel so welcome – I know that each of our visits are preceded by a cleaning, cooking, and shopping frenzy.  Shane’s mom had stocked the cupboards with four kinds of homemade cookies and my favorite caramels and chocolate peanut butter balls.  How’s that for speaking my love language? Thanks again, Schnell clan.  We already miss you.

It’s hard to see our long-awaited vacation come to a close, but we ended it on a really lovely note, with some super-relaxing, family-filled time in Alexandria. We got to take part in so many special moments over the past couple of days: we were able to see Shane’s sister walk in her college graduation ceremony, after years of hard work; we got to take his mom out for a belated Mother’s Day lunch and his dad out for an early Father’s Day dinner; we watched Shane’s dad reap the benefits of his shiny, new, state-of-the-art tractor; and we all gathered together last night to cheer on our little nephew Avery as he drove in his first go-cart race (at the age of six! look at him go!). Since we often only see Shane’s family once a year at Thanksgiving time, this visit felt like a nice little bonus, packed with good memories we were thrilled to be a part of.

It was also a treat to see Minnesota in the springtime, with buds on the trees and fields full of dandelions. Although the November snow certainly has its charm, its nice to see so many shades of green in places that I’ve always known as frozen and bare.

And now, after 8 glorious days of doing what we want to, waking up when we want to, eating what we want to, and generally being completely self-indulgent, our big trip has come to a close. ‘Home, sweet home’ was my mantra throughout the entire flight back to Seattle, muttered in an effort to ease the pain of saying good-bye to ‘vacation, sweet vacation’…

We arrived in Minneapolis around noon on Tuesday, sad to be bidding farewell to Chicago, but excited about the next leg of our trip. We only had 24 hours in Minneapolis, and I really wanted to make the most of that time. So after lunch at a Mexican restaurant on Nicolett Mall, I…went shoe shopping. It’s true – there were probably sights I could have been seeing, museums I could have been visiting, drinks I could have been tasting, but the weather was much hotter than I’d packed for, and my feet were screaming for a pair of sandals. One strappy pair of wedges later, I did a little cafe-sitting and then was ready to take on the city. Shane and I had tickets for the Twins game that night, so we put on our lightest-weight clothing (87 degrees outside – seriously?!) and walked the two blocks to the stadium. Our seats were perched high above the outfield, so we had a great view from which to take in Target Field.

We heard murmurings from the fans in the seats behind us that there was a tornado and hailstorm warning in effect, but we hoped that we’d already paid our bad-weather dues at the Cubs game, so we hung tight in our seats, wanting to see if the Twins would come back from the Tigers’ early runs. Toward the third inning, the first fat raindrops started to to fall, so we headed down to take cover under an overhang. In the fourth inning, the rain really started to come down, and we really started to overheat – just when we started debated whether or not to wait it out, the decision was made for us…

We were too hot and thirsty to see how long the delay would last, so we rushed outside and took refuge from the rain in the nearest bar, thankful that at least we’d had the chance to check out the Twins’ beautiful new ballpark. The rest of the evening was really low-key, with junk food and basketball back at the room – not quite the all-star tour de Twin Cities that we’d planned on, but it was still a good day.

Wednesday morning started with breakfast at Moose and Sadie’s, a charming little cafe/bakery in the Warehouse District. We shared a sticky bun and munched on fruit and yogurt, eager to check out a little more of the city before heading up to Alexandria for our visit with Shane’s family. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we stood up to head out into the city, those pesky fat raindrops began to fall again. We hoped it looked worse than it actually was, but after getting thoroughly dampened in only two short blocks, we began to worry that our morning was doomed. We cursed ourselves for carrying umbrellas halfway across the country and then leaving them tucked into our suitcases back at the room. But I say, when life gives you lemons, just drink coffee, so we ducked into a nearby cafe, determined to wait out the rain with a hot latte. One on One cafe ended up being a really good find, with great coffee and an interesting vibe, as it was part cafe/part bicycle shop. We were happy to sit there for awhile, and even happier when we saw that the rains had stopped.

The rest of the morning was spent on a quick architectural tour of downtown – we checked out the library, snapped a few photos of the Warehouse District, and slowly meandered back to the hotel.

Our final stop before heading out of town was the Mill City Museum – I’d read about this old flour mill that had been converted to a modern museum dedicated to the history of the mill. The incorporation of new glass structures with remnants of crumbling stone walls and rusted steel members was beautiful – we spent awhile poking around the courtyard, snapping photos and admiring the architecture.

One last gaze at the Mighty Mississippi (which looked particularly mighty in light of recent events), and it was time to say good-bye to Minneapolis.

Looking forward to some chill time with family over the next few days – somehow all of this relaxation has me a bit worn out…

After an early-morning spin through the mall with Shane’s mom, and a hearty breakfast with the rest of the family, Shane and I said our good-byes, hopped back in the car, cranked up the heater, and headed to Minneapolis for a quick city-fix before our flight back to Seattle on Saturday.

After checking into our lovely room at Graves 601, we made our way to the Walker Art Center – a museum designed by Herzog and de Meuron and filled with all kinds of contemporary art.  Much of the art was a bit too…’conceptually abstract’ for my taste (a continuous video loop of a tongue rolling marbles around inside of a mouth, for example), but the current exhibit on Yves Klein is crazy, crazy good.  I first became familiar with his work at the Pompidou in Paris and fell in love with his cobalt blue paintings and his innovative use of the human body as a paintbrush.  But this exhibit also contained several of his fire paintings, which were new to me and absolutely beautiful.

The museum itself was also a work of art, with its unique materiality and bold, cube-like forms.  Not my most favorite H&dM building of all-time, but still an interesting place to experience.

Post-museum, we spent some time strolling through the shopping district near our hotel.  We noticed that a crowd had begun to line both sides of the street outside of Macy’s, and decided to hang around for a bit when we heard that the big Christmas parade would be coming through downtown in just a couple of minutes.  As we stood there, shivering and cringing from the cold, we began to question whether the parade would be worth losing feeling in all of our limbs.  After the first rinky-dink float rolled past, we decided it wasn’t.  We took refuge from the cold in a nearby store – I don’t think I have ever seen Shane so willingly agree to shoe shopping.   Once we’d thawed out, we made our way back to the hotel (via an impressive series of inter-connected sky-walks, since it turns out you can traverse a good portion of downtown without ever having to go outside – Score!), and wined and dined ourselves at Cosmos, the super-chic restaurant inside our hotel.  With our bellies full of duck breast, crab cakes, and pork belly, we headed downstairs to the bar at Bradstreet Crafthouse for a couple of late-night cocktails.  We were given a cozy little table in the corner and enjoyed the chance to catch up with each other – we reflected on our time spent with Shane’s family, talked about the people and places we looked forward to seeing back in Seattle, and enjoyed the chance to be in our own little Kelly and Shane ‘bubble’ for awhile, where nothing mattered other than each other.

We had just a couple of hours to enjoy the city the next morning, and I had a grand ambitions of a photographic tour of Minneapolis, but instead decided it would be nicer (read: warmer) to linger over our breakfast at Hell’s Kitchen, and then sit for awhile in a nearby coffee shop and sip hot tea.  Nothin’ wrong with that…

And so, our short-but-sweet 24 hours in Minneapolis came to an end.  I feel like I got just a taste of the city’s offerings and we look forward to getting back there sometime soon (but hopefully in the summer…).

Apparently time flies when you’re dozing on the couch – hard to believe that our few days with Shane’s family are nearly over.  Tomorrow we head down to Minneapolis for a night out on the town, and Saturday we return to Seattle.  We’ve had a perfectly relaxing week, catching up with family, catching up on our sleep, catching up on our caloric intake…  Shane logged some serious Lego-building hours with his nieces and nephew, I made progress in my quest through Harry Potter, and we saw plenty of lovely, freshly-fallen, puffy white SNOW.  Such a treat…  Our stay in Alexandria, in photos:

We celebrated Thanksgiving day with food and gifts and a little Thanksgiving play (complete with cat-masks), written and directed by Shane’s fabulously creative little niece.  It was a good day, the perfect culmination of a week that went by far too quickly.  Shane and I have much to be thankful for in the generosity, love, and hospitality of his family.  Shane’s dad remarked tonight how nice it was to see me feel at home here, and I really do – this cozy little house in rural Minnesota has become my home away from home.

And with that, I must sign off – my mother-in-law and I have a 5 a.m. shopping date in the morning, so I better get some shut-eye.  God’s blessings to you and yours.

Indeed, we are sitting at the airport as I type, waiting to board our plane to cold, snowy, cold (did I already say that?) Minnesota for a week with Shane’s family. This trip has become an annual tradition for us, and I’ve come to look forward it more and more each year. I love being in a house full of family, watching Shane play Legos with his nieces and nephew while the smell of roasted turkey wafts in from the kitchen. I love taking a ride down memory lane with Shane, as he takes me past all the places he used to get into trouble as a kid (yes, my gentle, law-abiding husband used to be the king of car crashes, stolen road signs, and toilet papered front yards). I love getting up pre-dawn with with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law to hit the Door-Buster sales the day after Thanksgiving. And I especially love waking up to the sight of a freshly fallen blanket of snow, knowing that if I so please, I don’t have to do anything that day other than curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book. Cheers to time with family, to relaxation, and to my new fuzzy, warm hat. It’s going to be a very, very good week.