Friday, September 22, 2017

Flashback Friday: Northern Minnesota

**This post is part of a Flashback Friday series. I will be posting photos from the trips I took as a kid accompanied by the journal entries I kept while traveling**


Destination: Northern Minnesota

Friday, August 5, 2005

We left our house at about 4:00PM and drove up to Grandpa’s.  We got to Grandpa’s at about 7:30 PM then we walked to the Legion to eat.  I had a cheeseburger, fries, breaded mushrooms, and cheese curds.  We went back to Grandpa’s and watched Numb3rs until we went to bed at about 10.

Saturday, August 6th, 2005

We woke up at about 6:30 AM.  After eating doughnuts and oatmeal for breakfast, we left at 7:30 on a 3-hour drive to Lake Itasca.

When we got to Lake Itasca, we went to the Visitor Center for about 15 minutes and watched a 5-minute video about the park.  Then we drove down to the main feature of the park- Lake Itasca- where we walked across the Mississippi.  The rocks were slippery and the lake went up to Isaac’s waist.  We walked down the stream as well which had little fish in it.




After that we went on a very small hike but we turned around quickly because we decided it was a pathetic trail. That was when we went back to the truck to eat.  We had sandwiches.  I had salami, turkey, lettuce, and cheese. After we ate, we drove to Bemidji.  In Bemidji, they were having “Crazy Days.”  We looked at a bunch of shops.  Then we left again and headed to Grand Rapids.




In Grand Rapids, they were having “Lumberjack Days.”  We left our stuff and the motel and went down to look at the shops.  The only thing I got was a book called, “The Killers Cousin.”  They were selling old library books for a fundraiser.

After shopping we watched the Lumberjack show which was pretty funny!  The two Lumberjacks- Bobby and Geno- had to do contests versus each other.  First, they had to cut a log in half- Bobby won.  Next, they threw axes at a target.  Geno won by far- Bobby kept missing the target!  Thirdly, they did a relay.  They had to drag a log onto another log. then use a chainsaw to cut a disc off another log.  The last part was to drag the previous log off the log they put it on.  Geno won that.  The next drill was to use a larger chainsaw to cut a disc off a different log.  Geno won that but it was very close!  His disc hit the ground by not even a millisecond!  The last drill was to roll a log on water by running on it.  Both lumberjacks were on the same log and had to make the other person fall off.  They took turns winning that one.  Bobby fell into the splits on the log!  It was funny!


Then we went back to the hotel and ate supper (BLTs and Raman Noodles) and went to bed.

Sunday, August 7, 2005

When we woke up this morning we had egg McMuffins for breakfast and drove to Hibbing.  There, we looked down at a mine (which I’ve already been to.  It looks cool from up high!) 

Then we drove to Eveleth and looked at another mine.  The dump trucks they use are HUGE!




Also in Eveleth we went to the Hockey Hall of Fame!  It was awesome!  The old Zamboni and skates look really, really funny!  I took a ton of pictures.  We could shoot pucks and play box hockey there!  I got a small snow globe from there as well.  







Next we went to Duluth and saw a few drawbridges.  We also looked at a ship museum.




After that we went to check in at our campground.  We’re staying in a cabin at KOA campground.  After we got there we first unpacked and then the boys went swimming.  After swimming we all went back to the cabin and played around.  Me and dad went to drive around.

We stopped at a grocery store and got pudding and pop tarts and stuff.  When we got back to the campground we started the fire and everyone had hot dogs for supper except me.  I just had cheesy pretzels and two pop tarts.  After we ate we just stayed by the fire and did pretty much nothing until we went to bed.


[Edit: My journal ended there, but we had a few more days left of travel.  I will post the captioned pictures below!]


Gooseberry Falls - Two Harbors, Minnesota
Gooseberry Falls - Two Harbors, Minnesota
Wisconsin Dells
Previous Flashback Friday posts:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Thank God for Hometowns

"Thank God for hometowns
And all the love that makes you go round
Thank God for the county lines that welcome you back in
When you were dying to get out

Thank God for Church pews
And all the faces that won't forget you
Cause when you're lost out in this crazy world
You got somewhere to go and get found
Thank God for hometowns"

-Carrie Underwood "Thank God for Hometowns"

I feel like people like to complain about where they're from, about how dull their town was growing up or about how miserable all the classmates they went to school with were...but I can't say I feel that way- at all! Yes, sometimes it felt like there was nothing to do and going shopping always included a 30+ minute drive, but I wouldn't change growing up where I did for anything.

Growing up in a small(ish) town,  it always seemed like I couldn't go anywhere that I didn't run into someone I knew (or who knew me!) Even now after I've essentially been gone for 7 years (minus summers during college), it never fails that I run into a hockey family, a YMCA family, or a relative (side effect of having my last name in Winona!)

Anyway, I've always loved bringing friends home to show off the place that made me who I am, especially because there are so many great places to share.

Lets start with the most important part- the FOOD!

Now I didn't realize how much great food Winona had until I left and didn't get to eat it anymore. I've frequented a lot of eateries in Nashville and surrounding areas, and still have many left to try, but I still have a consistent list of places that I crave when I'm not in MN.

It is crucial that when you're visiting Winona you always start off with a donut from Bloedows (as in eat at least one every day). Voted the best donut in Minnesota, I'd be shocked if they weren't the best in the country.  I'm so picky about donuts because I've been spoiled with the deliciousness that Bloedows produces.  We had a Krispy Kreme once for like a week, but it couldn't compare and shut down pretty soon after it opened. But seriously, people around the country crave these donuts.  Still don't believe me? Check out this page of rave reviews then drool over the pictures below.







When I'm looking to catch up with friends, nothing is better than a local coffee shop, and Winona has plenty of those.  I'm not even a coffee drinker, but when I'm home I have to hit these up:



Mugby Junction: Mugby has two locations in Winona, a drive-thru location on the east side and a sit-down cafe just off of the Winona State campus in the middle of town.  Mugby offers a unique array of sandwiches, salads, and wraps, quiche, baked goods, coffee beverages, smoothies, and more.








Winona Sandwich Company is a local soup and sandwich shop.  They also offer burritos, salads, and desserts. Winona Sandwich Co is located in the center of town near the college campus.






Blooming Grounds originally stole my heart when it first opened because of its always-changing shelves of desserts.  Anyone who knows me knows that I have a mouth full of sweet tooths (sweet teeth?), especially if the sweet includes chocolate.  Blooming Grounds's expansive menu includes coffee drinks, frozen drinks, craft beer, wine, breakfast dishes, paninis, salads, soups, gourmet pizzas, and more.





Caribou Coffee: While Caribou isn't local to Winona, it IS Minnesota-based. Caribou is basically a northern version of Starbucks.  It offers a variety of both coffee and non-coffee drinks, teas, juices, sandwiches, and baked goods.






Located downtown is the Acoustic Cafe, my all-time favorite sandwich/coffee shop.  I spent time "studying" and hanging out with friends here in high school, and it is still a common place for me to grab lunch with people when I'm in town. My go-to order is a 1/3 salami sandwich and cup of chili, though I can never actually finish it all. Sometimes I would go just for ice cream or a smoothie.  True to the name, Acoustic offers live music from local musicians on the weekends.







Growing up, I spent many summer nights walking from my great-grandparents house down to the "root beer stand," AKA Lakeview Drive Inn.  (I didn't actually know the real name name until probably high school...)  Lakeview is a drive-in restaurant, though there are picnic tables set up to eat outside, or a bar to eat at inside.  They make their own root beer, and offer a variety of appetizers, burgers, and frozen treat options.  My favorite? A toddy burger with fries and tartar sauce and a homemade root beer followed by a crunch cone.  The best part is how affordable this place continues to be while still serving delicious food!








Another ice cream venue I frequented while growing up was the Penguin Zesto.  The original location is on the east side of town, but they built another one on the west side of town (West is Best!) just when I was getting old enough to stay home by myself.  Zesto became a common place to go when we were too lazy to make lunch in the summers or just wanted a cool treat after spending a day at the beach down the road.








In addition to all the great food, Winona offers a lot of FESTIVALS for a small town.

View from the top of the ferris wheel

The festival that I've spent the most time at is Steamboat Days.  Being on the Mississippi River, Winona used to have a steamboat set up in the levee, but it was demolished years ago.  My favorite part of Steamboat Days was the carnival, not because of the rides, but because of the food (shocker!)  The carnival always set up on a Wednesday at the end of June and left on the following Monday.  I remember meeting up with friends to see the man shot out of the cannon, being in the parade walking down Broadway on Sunday at 1:01PM, and sitting in the grass at the levee watching the fireworks shot off across the river in Wisconsin on Sunday night. Steamboat days also has a 5K run on Saturday morning, live music at the beverage tent every night, various sporting events, a kiddie parade, and so much more.  






Midwest Music Fest was created in Winona in 2010 and occurs every April.  It is now a three-day long musical event that hosts more than 100 local acts and artists from a variety of genres on multiple stages.

Great River Shakespeare Festival employs nearly 100 actors performing Shakespeare and takes place mid-summer every year for six weeks.

I have never attended the Beethoven Festival, but it has been in existence for a decade and occurs in Winona.  The Beethoven Festival is a celebration of music and Ludwig van Beethoven.  It happens every summer during the month of July.



The CULTURE and HISTORY of Winona can be found throughout town.

I love going into stores and finding Watkins products in them, because Watkins is based out of Winona! If you've never heard of Watkins, they manufacture bath and body products, as well as food seasonings and spices and more.

One of the museums I haven't been to in Winona is the Polish Museum. The Polish Cultural Institute celebrates the Polish culture in and around Winona.

The Marine Art Museum is located right on the Mississippi River and is comprised of a gallery filled with historical art from artists including, but not limited to, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Matisse.

Lastly, the Winona County Historical Society is located in historical, downtown Winona.  Founded in 1925, the WCHS is filled with exhibits that show Winona's past.




If you're still looking for THINGS TO DO...

Surrounded by bluffs, Winona has heaps of opportunities for hiking.  Growing up, my favorite trails to hike were the ones by Holzinger Lodge.  Often times we would have girl scout events or birthday parties at Holzinger, which frequently led to trail exploration.

Once I hit high school, I began to explore the Sugar Loaf trails with my friends.  Sugar Loaf is essentially a mound of limestone located at the top of a bluff on the east end of Winona, formed by quarrying nearly 150 years ago.  There is a trail that leads up the bluff to Sugar Loaf, but there are also designated climbing times that you can actually clime the rock.

The Garvin Heights trail is often populated with people looking to get a work out in.  Garvin is a community on the top of one of Winona's many rolling bluffs.  You can drive the winding road up to the lookout, but there is also a trail (containing a plethora of stairs!) that you can climb.  I love hiking, but I loathe stairs, so if I want to go up to the lookout, I drive.

View of the West (small) Lake from Garvin Heights look out

Sugar Loaf

View of the East (big) Lake from Sugar Loaf


Paddle-boarding on the lake (we stood up eventually!)
Between the Mississippi River, and the Winona lakes, my hometown is surrounded by water.  Around the two lakes are two connecting, paved paths used for walkers, bikers, roller skaters, and more.  The total distance of these paths is roughly five miles, and gives you a beautiful view of the lakes and the bluffs around the town.

Also by the lakes are an array of softball fields used for many tournaments throughout the year, parks for children to play at, sand volleyball courts, and a giant bandshell used for concerts (and bandshell ball!).

There are also a variety of activities you can do on the lakes throughout all four seasons.  The Winona Park and Rec Department offers a pass for roughly $10 that lasts all year and allows you to check out equipment for snowshoeing, canoeing, kayacking, ice skating, paddle-boarding, and fishing. (There is likely more that I am unaware of!)  Winona really is a great place for people who love the outdoors.

Winona has a campground at Prairie Island, right on the Mississippi River, and a deer park nearby.  The Aquatic Center is a great place to cool off in their Olympic sized pool on a toasty summer day.  If beaches are more your thing, you can go right across the (newly built) bridge to Wisconsin and hang out on Latch Island beach for the day, or head down the highway to Lacanne Park and beach over in Goodview.

One of my favorite quotes I've ever heard was, "Only boring people get bored." With so much to do in Winona, (and so much food to eat!), I am never bored when I go home to visit.  I love living in the south, but I am so glad I grew up where I did!



Wish List

Y'all, Kari Yearous is an awesome photographer that I found via Facebook who photographs Winona in all its beauty.  I have a bag with a photo of hers on it as well as a calendar, next on my wish list is this book of photographs that she produced!


Friday, September 15, 2017

Flashback Friday: Southeast USA

**This post is part of a Flashback Friday series. I will be posting photos from the trips I took as a kid accompanied by the journal entries I kept while traveling**

Destination: Southeast

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I woke up at 5:21 AM this morning.  We all got dressed and packed up.  We left home at 6:17 AM.  WAAAAAAAY too early for me.  Then, we drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove before we finally reached the Turtle Creek rest stop in Illinois.  I didn’t even remember going through Wisconsin!  Then, we drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove some more.  That was when we reached the rest stop in Indiana.  We made sandwiches there and then we drove AND ate and drove and ate and drove and drove til we got to a park with waterfalls in Indiana.  We ate cookies there.  Then we drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove some more.  We stayed at America’s Best Value Inn.  For the conclusion, we drove WAAAAAAY too much today.

Friday, March 25, 2005

This morning Dad, Sam, and I went to Wal-Mart to buy granola bars, candy, a toothbrush, notebooks, and an extension cord.  We left the “inn” a little after 7.  Then we drove and drove and drove and drove to the Smokey Mountains where we went hiking.  Then, are you ready for this, guess what we did?! Well, we drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove to the top of the mountains.  I was rather disappointed.  The view was spectacular but the mountains weren’t anything what I expected.  They just looked like overgrown hills.  I expected brown rocky ones with snow on the top of them like in Europe.  We stopped at Holiday Inn to sleep and had McDonalds for supper.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

We woke up about 6:25 AM.  We got packed up and left the hotel.  Then we drove, only for an hour though this time.  We stopped at Tallulah Gorge State Park.  It was really high and really cool!  We went on over 1200 steps!  We went on a suspension bridge; it was shaky!  I loved it!  Sam was terrified of it though!  After that we went and drove for a while, a very long while.





We stopped at Great Stone Mountain after we ate lunch.  We had to climb to the top!  The view was cool!  We got ices at the top and then climbed back down.




We went to our tent at the Great Stone Mountain campground.  We had cheesy brats for supper.  After supper, we went to the gift shops, then the light show.  It was really neat.  They used laser lights to act out songs.  We went to bed at 9:30PM.  On the way there was an accident and traffic jam.  Cars were going backward up the exit ramp!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

We went to church this morning since it was Easter.  It was only a half hour though.  We ate breakfast afterwards.  It stormed a lot last night and everything was wet in the morning.  We went on the sky lift today.  We also saw a 3D movie and made candles.  We went shopping as well.  It’s storming so we decided not to stay at the campground tonight.  We drove for a while and stopped at Best Western (still in Georgia).  We ordered pizza.  We’re in a tornado watch right now and its very rainy.  We went to bed at 10 and watched boring TV all night.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Today we drove from the hotel to Charleston, South Carolina.  We didn’t do much though.  We went to the Fort Sumter Visitor Center.  Then we went to Fort Moultrie.  It was pretty boring though.  Mostly just cannons and walls, much like Fort Snelling but not nearly as fun.


It was really windy today.  We went to the campground to check in.  We’re sleeping in a cabin.  It took awhile to get unpacked but eventually we did finish then we went out to eat.  We went to On the Border, which is a Mexican restaurant.  We had chips and salsa.  I got quesadillas.  They were very very very good!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Today we went to Fort Sumter.  I didn’t have any interest in it but mom and dad seemed to.  Actually none of the kids thought it was so great.  The only part I liked was the boat ride there and back.  Then we went to the Imax Theater.  That was pretty cool.  It was about the ocean life and stuff.  Then we walked around a little more.



We finally left and went to Target.  I got a pair of lime green flip-flops.  We went back to the campground and went swimming.  The lady soon made us get out though because we didn’t have a parent watching us.  After we got changed we roasted cheesy hot dogs and brats on the campfire.  When we finished those we made s’mores.  They were really good.  We went to bed at about 9:30PM.  Oh yeah, before we went to Target we went to a battleship place.  It was kind of boring.  I got a shell necklace at the gift shop though.



Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Today we woke up at about 5:30 AM.  Way too early if you ask me.  We finished packing and then left the campground a little after six.  We drove and drove and drove and drove until we got to a Revolutionary War Battlefield in Forest Creek.  We watched a movie and then walked a mile and a forth.  Then we drove some more.  After we drove we stopped for has.  Then we drove some more and some more and some more.  Eventually we got to the Orville and Wilber Wright National Memorial.  Then we started to drive to the hotel.  We went to Sonic and I got an orange cream slush.  We drove some more and then made it to the hotel.



Thursday, March 31, 2005

This morning we woke up and watched the sun rise.  Then we went back to bed for an hour.  We then woke up and had crispies for breakfast.  We went outside after breakfast to gather seashells from the beach.


After that we went for an hour-long drive to Williamsburg where we learned about the Revolutionary War.  First, we watched a movie, which was interesting.  Then we walked around for what seemed like ever.  We got caramel apples and went to a school and a blacksmith and a brick maker, which was cool.  The brick guy told us no matter how much bricks you glaze at once it always takes 1 week.  It was getting cold and we were hungry so we left.  When we got back to the hotel we went shopping.  I got a t-shirt and salt water taffy.  We had Wendy’s for supper, my favorite!

Friday, April 1, 2005

Well we’re going to miss a few days of school because we’ve decided to go to Florida.  April Fools!  We woke up at 6 this morning and went to the beach to look for seashells again.  We packed up and left the hotel at about 7:30 AM.  We drove for two hours to Petersburg.  We looked at the museum and watched a presentation, which didn’t make any sense.  Then we went on the driving tour.  After that we drove for a very long time to Monticello, the house where Thomas Jefferson lived.  We looked at the museum and watched a movie.  Jefferson died July 4th, 1814 the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Then we drove to West Virginia and stayed at Days Inn.  We are Fazoli’s.



Saturday, April 2, 2005

We’re finally heading home today!  And we got home. [Edit: I was not very good at journaling on the last day]


Previous Flashback Friday posts:

Monday, September 11, 2017

Satur-date: You Look Good Tour

Y'all know how much I LOVE Nashville.  It was the city that originally lured me south, drawing me in with the neon lights and always-present stream of vocals flowing out of every door.  The one thing I miss most about moving to AL from Tennessee is the short commute to Nashville that I would make biweekly.

That being said, I love my new home, and the now hour and a half commute to Nashville is nothing to complain about; I can still drive up for an exciting evening of music and Nashville eats!



When Lady Antebellum announced that they would be going on a You Look Good World Tour, I was quick to hop on the internet to hunt for when they would be coming to a venue near me.  I saw that they would be spending their last concert date state-side in Nashville and quickly wrote down the ticket release date in my planner, followed by the date of Heart Break, their next album's release.




Lady A has been a favorite of mine since I first saw (and met!) them back in 2008, only a couple months after their release of their first album. Now, nearly a decade and six albums later, I was more than ready to see them in concert for the forth time.

Meeting Lady A at Country Jam in 2008
We got to Music City early enough to have dinner in one of the always-packed Honky Tonks on Broadway.  Carl had never been to Alan Jackson's ACME Feed and Seed, so we decided on that as our dinner destination.

Despite all the hype, my first impression of ACME had not been stellar, but I'm always willing to give things a second chance.  After biting into my beer belly tacos, I realized that ACME's second chance had once again failed me.  Though they looked pretty enough for an instagram pic, my tacos were fairly dry and not overly flavorful.  Adding the Texas Ketchup (which is more of a BBQ sauce) helped to spice things up.  The other downside (literally, because all my toppings fell down out of the shell), was that the kitchen didn't double-up on the corn taco shells. ROOKIE MISTAKE, Y'ALL.


Beer Belly Tacos at ACME Feed & Seed
Carl was kind enough to give me a bite of his hot chicken sandwich, which was nice of him considering if roles were reversed, I don't know that I would have shared, because IT WAS SO GOOD! Lesson learned, if I go to ACME again I will only order the Rule the Roost hot chicken sandwich.




After dinner, we slowly made our way back up Broadway to Bridgestone Arena for the concert. The first opening act was Brett Young, wearing a Tennessee Titans jersey.  I was excited for Brett because I had never seen him live before, and it is rare for that to happen!  I only knew a few of his songs, but since he only performed a handful, that didn't bring down my concert high. Carl pointed out that Brett Young must be really tall, and when your 6' 4" boyfriend tells you someone is tall, you look it up because you've never heard him call someone tall before. Yep- 6 feet 6 inches! (There is your fun fact for the day). During Brett's performance, Big Machine Records (his label) came out to present him with a plaque for one of his songs going platinum I believe (I can't remember exactly!)


Low quality photo, high quality sound

Kelsea Ballerini was next.  I had seen her twice before, the first being at NHL All-Star Week.  I had only known her song "First Time" at that point because it was a free download on iTunes, but after leaving that day I was definitely a fan and couldn't get to the store fast enough to purchase her album! (Am I the only one who still purchases tangible CDs??)  I've purchased the two singles that have been released from her sophomore album, "Unapologetically," but am anxiously awaiting the full album to come out on November third!

Anywho, I was in awe the whole time Kelsea was onstage. She rocked a gorgeous outfit covered in sequins paired with sparkling heeled booties.  Carl said he would buy me a pair if I traded them in for my Adidas sandals, but I think we all know that will never happen. Kelsea performed all of my favorite songs from her first album, the two songs that she has so far released from her second, as well as a couple of other songs she had written that haven't yet been released.


The headlining act came out preceded by triumphant blasts coming from a trumpet and trombone, both played by energetic, spirited musicians. Lady A recruited some horn players for their tour, and I was loving the energy they produced! It was great to hear new songs that I'd never seen performed before, and old songs adapted to include the horns. Students from the Nashville School of the Arts even brought their horns out to play "You Look Good" with the band. Brett Young came back out to sing "Something Like That" by Tim McGraw, and Kelsea joined Hillary back on stage to perform "Crazy in Love" by Beyoncé.



My favorite moment was when the trio pulled out a piano and some stools to slow things down, and before they began performing they took some time to just talk to each other and to the audience. They shared how they had come together in Nashville a decade ago, and began performing as a group just down the street. They shared their memories from 3rd and Lindley and declared how appreciative they were of their fans and everyone who helped to get them to where they are today. There were tears shed on stage, and I'm sure in the audience too, as Lady A reveled in the fact that they were back where they started to follow their dreams at a time when their dreams had all come true. 

Now, Lady A heads over to Europe for the next leg of their tour and I wallow in post-concert withdrawals, anxiously awaiting the next musical excursion.

Ran into some friends at the concert!





















If you haven't already gotten the albums, no sweat! Here are links to all of them!  There are only 15 weeks until Christmas, treat yo' self! (or someone else!)

"Brett Young" by Brett Young

"The First Time" by Kelsea Ballerini

"Unapologetically" by Kelsea Ballerini

"Lady Antebellum" by Lady Antebellum


"Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum

"Golden" by Lady Antebellum

"747" by Lady Antebellum

"Heart Break" by Lady Antebellum

"A Merry Little Christmas" by Lady Antebellum



**Post contains affiliate links