Tips for planning your first trip to Paris

Most people won’t get to take more than one trip to Paris in their lifetime, so you want to make it good, right? Dan and I had the amazing opportunity to take a 2 week trip to Europe this past summer. Because we have family there, we started in The Netherlands, and then travelled on to Belgium, the UK, and finally to Paris. The trip was amazing, and it went so well because we took the time to plan out some of the important things beforehand. Below are some of the tips I have for planning your trip to Paris. Enjoy!

 

  1. Do your research 

This sounds really nerdy, but we spent months before our trip learning about Paris and the activities we wanted to do there. Read blogs, scour Pinterest, google up a storm, and buy a travel book or two before you go. Take the time to figure out what will be really enjoyable for you to do in the city. There is nothing worse than spending the money on a great trip to get there and have no idea how to take advantage of the opportunities surrounding you.  The Lonely Planet book on Paris was what we decided to buy, and we used it ALL of the time; both before and during our trip to Paris. The tips from it were really incredible. It gave us an idea of where to spend our time, but it also contained removable maps of the city, common phrases to use, walking tours by neighborhood, and explanations of the customs of the city.

Not only did we take time to figure out what would make our trip enjoyable, but we figured out what we didn’t want to do as well. Waiting in line for everything (like the thousands of other tourists around us) was one of the things that would make the trip stressful for us. We despise waiting in lines…. like really really hate it. In my opinion, there isn’t much in life that is truly worth a 3 – 4 hour wait. So, we figured out how to minimize our wait times. Just because I love you, here are the things I learned to keep the wait time at minimum:

  • Buy your tickets to the Eiffel Tower in advance: Everything I read before my trip told me to get in line to take the steps up to the first level of the Eiffel Tower to shorten my wait time, but at mid day when all of the tourists are around, you will still wait in line for at least an hour, and then have to climb A LOT of stairs. Just buy your tickets in advance to save yourself the wait. Unfortunately, we went to purchase our tickets in advance, but were too late (they sell out months in advance). This might be a tip, or we might have gotten lucky, but we decided to go up the Eiffel Tower at night instead, and there were only 10 people in line before us to do so. It was breathtaking to see the city at night. That might be something to check into if you missed out on the advance tickets like us.
  • Visit the Sacre Coeur for the best view of the city without a wait:  Everyone that comes to Paris wants to go up the Eiffel Tower, and you should at least once in life, but my favorite view of the city was at the Sacre Coeur. This beautiful church towers over Paris on a hilltop, giving you views for miles. Also, ask yourself this: what’s missing from a daytime view of Paris at the Eiffel Tower? The Eiffel Tower! As tourists, we LOVE looking at it, so when you are up in the Sacre Coeur, you not only get a beautiful city view, but unobstructed views of the structure we all know and love so much. When we got to the church, we realized that most people don’t know that you can actually go up into the tower of the church. Hundreds of people climb the hill to get to the church and linger on the steps outside it, but when you go around the right side of the building, and down some stairs, you can get in line to climb its tower. There was NO wait, and it was only 6 Euros a person (that’s a great price compared to everything else).
  • Buy your tickets to Notre Dame in advance. Churches are popular places to visit all over Europe. If you want to go to the most famous ones, either attend mass on a Sunday when they are free, or get your tickets in advance.
  • Get to the Musee D’Orsay in the morning: You won’t wait in line to buy your ticket at the door if you get there early enough. We arrived around 9 in the morning and spent about 15 minutes in line.
  • Buy a travel book to learn my FAVORITE no wait tip for The Louvre: You can sometimes have up to a 3 hour wait at the main doors of the Louvre. Read your travel book to learn how to skip the lines (Again… we bought the Lonely Planet one). It’s not a trick. It really works. I’m not willing to share the exact tip online, because I want you to do the work the reap the benefit of this tip (and if everyone finds out about it so easily, the wait time will no longer be short), but let me say that there was LITERALLY NOBODY in line where we got into The Louvre. It was so bizarre to me that nobody knew about the entrance, that I thought we had to be at the wrong place. Well we weren’t, and got in instantly! Score! This saved us a 3 hour wait, and we weren’t crabby by the time we got in The Louvre because we did our research.

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2. Slow down

Paris was our last stop on a two week trip around Europe, and needless to say, we wanted to see and experience as much as possible. I think that we are the worlds fastest travelers. Our vacation standard is that we start out exploring every morning at 8am and don’t get back to the room until around 10pm. The truth is, I usually end up breaking down to cry at least once on each trip because of our fast pace haha. I may cry because of how exhausted I am, but there’s no way I am wasting time in our room when I could be out exploring! I’ve just got to get the tears out of my system, pick my head back up, and keep on going. Anyways, Paris was initially a struggle for me because of this. When you get there, even though it’s a big city and you expect it to be bustling, the Parisians live life at a slower pace. They eat in parks, stroll along the sidewalks while window shopping, and spend up to two hours when they stop for coffee in a shop. Parisians SLOW DOWN, and therefore enjoy their lives. Do life at their pace, and you will get the most out of your trip to Paris. My favorite part of our trip wasn’t the amazing sights we saw (although they were amazing), but it was watching the Parisians and choosing to do life like them. We stayed in an AirBnB apartment in Le Marais, and toward the end of our visit we snagged a blanket out of the closet, grabbed some beverages and snacks, and layed on a blanket in a park called Place Des Vosges. We ate, drank, and enjoying the buzz of the people surrounding us. It was a wonderful experience. We were just one couple out of at least 30 others who were doing the exact same thing.

 

3. Find a balance between museums and experiencing the city for yourself

I like museums, don’t get me wrong, but if you spend too much time just learning about Paris through museums, you will miss out on the real heart and soul of it. So promise me that you will get out and experience Paris, but find a great balance between the two options. One museum I highly recommend (especially if you are into impressionist art like I am) is The Musee D’Orsay. You might be surprised, but I liked it more than The Lourvre (Gasp!). The building in and of itself is a piece of art, and they had some pieces that I had been dreaming about seeing for years. P.S. if you are into design, they have an entire section of the museum devoted to Art Nouveau ❤ ❤ <3!

4. Don’t just spend time near the tourist attractions

It can be a little scary deviating from the standard path taken in Paris, but get out of your comfort zone and get a little lost in the city. There are shops, restaurants, and businesses on every corner just waiting to be discovered.

 

5. Eat crepes at the Jardin Du Luxembourg

The Jardin Du Luxembourg is in the 6th district of Paris, and was created by the widow of one of the kings in the 1600’s. Today it serves as a park that’s owned by the French senate where the community can gather. It boasts immaculate gardens, fountains, statues, walking paths, and ponds. Imagine kids pushing their colorful sail boats out in a pond with wooden sticks with the backdrop of the Luxembourg Palace. Sunbathing locals line the concrete walking paths in the loungers surrounding the pond with the scent of crepes lingering in the air. You could be there, and you will want to eat the crepes. Trust me.

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6. Eat cheese at Les Deux Magots

Also in the 6th district of Paris is the famous restaurant named Les Deux Magots. It gained popularity because Earnest Hemingway, and other local intellects like James Joyce, and even Pablo Picasso frequented it. They were all brilliant and drank there, so there must be something in the water there, right ;)? I’m guessing they weren’t drinking water when they stopped here though. Anyway, the restaurant is exactly what you expect a Parisian restaurant to be like. The green awnings stretch out over the tables and chairs that spill out onto the sidewalks, and the waiters are wearing tuxedos. This is a perfect place to try that European cheese you have been hearing about. Order their cheese tray (it’s giant by the way) and enjoy it as the people of Paris saunter by.

7. Take the metro

The easiest way to get around Paris is on the metro. It’s the largest and most dense system in the world, but surprisingly easy to use (although I do think The Tube in London is set up better). We came into Paris on a Eurostar train and bought a Paris Visite Pass right at the station, which allowed us up to 5 days of unlimited use of the metro. You purchase it in either 1,3, or 5 day increments, and you can choose the pass that allows you to visit districts 1 – 3 which are popular, or the other that reaches out to more districts. If you read anything in my blog though, I highly recommend the latter option. Not only does it allow you to explore more, but you can take the metro to the airport when you are ready to go home. With that being said, if you flew in, you now know that you can purchase metro passes in the airport when you get there, take the train right into the city, and back out again when you are ready to fly home. Easy peasy. No setting up a shuttle, and in the long run it will save you money (If you use my first tip about doing your research, you will already have a metro map when you arrive because you bought a travel book. See how handy that is? We saved you so much time!)

Lastly, I wanted to let you know that the last train runs at roughly 12:40am in Paris during the weekdays, and until 1:40am on weekends. We just barely made it onto the last train to leave the station after lingering at the Eiffel Tower one night for a little too long. We don’t want you missing the latest train, and then spending a fortune on a cab to get back across town.

8. Visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery

This unique cemetery is unlike any you will ever see, and was a must do on my list of activities in Paris. The graves are more like mini mausoleums, and are incredibly ornate. Usually a cemetery isn’t a place that tourists flock to, but you will be surprised about how many people choose to spend time here. As you get closer to the cemetery, you will see flower shops pop up along the way, as it’s popular for the tourists to leave roses at the graves of the famous that are buried there. As someone with a B.S. in music, the most exciting thing that I could ever hear was that visiting this cemetery meant I could see Chopin’s grave. CHOPIN! In my opinion, his compositions are some of the most inspired in the history of our world. Other famous people buried in the cemetery are the author Oscar Wilde, and the Doors frontman Jim Morrison.

9. Use a combination of credit, debit, and cash for spending

Credit cards are widely accepted throughout Europe, and so use that for most of your spending. Before our trip we opened a Capital One Venture card because it was free to sign up for, has a 0% interest rate for the first year, has no foreign transaction fees, has a points system, and uses chip technology (which is absolutely vital for using a credit card in Europe). Most credit cards issued in America now have the chip technology, but in Europe they also have a pin number attached to their cards. We called and had pin numbers added to our credit cards before the trip, but once we got to Europe, we realized that’s not what they mean by pin. American credit cards are just different than European ones. With that being said, without that technology, sometimes your credit card gets rejected and you will want to have a back up just in case that happens. In addition to the credit card, we also opened up a new checking account with TCF Bank before our trip because their debit cards are part of the PLUS ATM network. Having a debit card that works within a European ATM network means lower foreign transition fees when you are withdrawing money. Cirrus and Plus are popular ATM networks throughout Europe, and it was easy to find them and take out the backup cash that we needed without being charged incredible oversea withdrawal rates. We used our credit cards throughout most of Europe, but then had our debit cards to take cash out of the ATM as necessary. We typically withdrew about 100 euros in each city we visited, which covered everything nicely for us.  Happy spending.

10. Have fun & don’t hold back

When it comes to traveling, we all have a budget of what we can spend, but I encourage you to not hold back on the trip. We spend our lives locked into budgets, and I view vacations as a time to let loose. Look at everything as an opportunity, and if you think you will look back at the trip someday and regret not doing something, then just go for it. I’m not condoning being financially irresponsible, but when in Paris, do as the Parisians do, right?

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Finding Commonality: Brussels, Belgium edition

If there is one thing that I am constantly drawn to, it’s the story of life. Every story is a little bit different – some are filled with deep sadness, some are mundane, and even others are filled with success and triumph – but we all have one thing in common. We are all human. So whether your story is simple or complex compared to another, we can all relate to each other if we are looking for that commonality.

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While traveling in Belgium this summer, I came across a lady who will forever be burned into my memory.

Having toured around Brussels on foot for several hours, my husband and I stumbled upon a Vietnamese restaurant in a trendy neighborhood to grab a bite to eat. It was beautifully situated near the intersection of several different streets in the heart of the city. Every direction you looked, there was a view of beautiful buildings. You could hear the live music playing at some of the nearby restaurants, and with all of the people walking around, there was an energetic buzz to the neighborhood. All of the restaurants had patios spilling onto the sidewalks with tables squished so close together that it felt more like a communal dining table, rather than individual seating. We were escorted quickly to a small table in the center of the outdoor patio area, and began to look over the menus – chitchatting while doing so. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her watching us. She was a french woman in her mid forties with unnaturally tan skin, long black hair, and wearing a cropped halter top, a choker necklace, and tight pants. She was slumped over while eating her food with her bare stomach hanging over the top of her jeans. I thought, “this is going to be an interesting evening,”  and smiled to myself because I could tell she was  very clearly several glasses into her wine by 6pm, but it wasn’t my business, and so we ordered and began to wait for our food.

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As much as I tried to mind my own business, I couldn’t help but notice the woman noticing us. She talked to the waiters in french, pulling them down to her level by grabbing at the ends of their button down shirts. When they walked away from her, she would throw her head back and laugh like they had just said the funniest thing in the world, all while looking over to us to make sure we were watching.  The waiters face deceived the facade she was putting on, because he would roll his eyes the second she looked away. For a moment I was amused by this funny scenario unfolding in front of me, but then it hit me. She was a very lonely woman, and my heart broke. Who am I to judge her? I started wondering how this woman got to where she was; eating dinner alone in a restaurant in which she was desperately trying to fit in to, while automatically standing out.

I don’t know exactly how we started having a conversation, but it happened, and I will never forget her.

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“Popcorn, popcorn, popcorn” she said cheerily in broken english while slurping her wine, “that’s all my son will eat”, and then laughed coarsely while digging in her purse for a photo of him. She had the kind of voice that was abused by the constant inhalation of cigarette smoke. In fact, she was smoking at that moment, took a drag, and blew it in my husbands face as she leaned over to show him the photo. Also at that moment, her hand rested unnecessarily on my husbands forearm.

After tucking the photo away, she asked if we had any children. Before we could answer (it seemed to be a one sided type of conversation), she unfolded the story of her life. And so it goes: She was married, but had run away from her husband. He lived in France with the son she showed us in the photo. Her mother lived in Brussels, but she lived on her own. She had gone through her phone list that night to see if someone wanted to go out, but in her opinion “all of her friends were boring”. She said that she wasn’t going to sit at home alone, and so she decided to have dinner at a nice place. Normally she didn’t spend that much on dinner, but she was special and so she deserved it, right? She said that she did in fact have one person she might hang out with later that night, but he had tried killing himself the week before, and so he was trying not to use quite as much. At this point she had called him several times, but he had yet to answer his phone. It was 7pm, but she thought he was sleeping off a hangover.

She had me hooked. Who WAS this woman sitting next to me? From every vantage point, this woman and I had nothing in common, but strangely, even with her story being so different from mine, there was a part of me that connected to her. “So do you work here in Brussels?” I asked thinking it was an innocent question to carry the conversation. Everything with this woman was an extreme exaggeration, and so she recoiled away from me placing her hand on her heart after I asked. Then, shaking her head back and forth she said “no, no, no I can’t share that. My life is too hard.” Pausing as if to consider how much she should say, she took a sip of her soup. When she looked up again I could see that she had red soup dribbling down her chin. I’m Minnesota nice, so didn’t say anything, (I do realize it’s actually NOT nice to not point out something on someone’s face, but I was far too embarrassed for her to say something) and she continued talking while completely unaware of it. “I used to be a model in Amsterdam, and had many years of trouble. I can’t talk about this or the police will take me away. I could be in danger. I do not do anything now. I am just trying to be good and relax” she said in a rushed manner.  Oddly enough, I was not shocked by her statement despite the fact that she was trying very hard to be shocking. I knew without a doubt that she was lying about being a model. In fact, I got the feeling that a lot of what she had said up until that point was only a vague image of the truth. Changing her demeanor to a more positive one, she said that she is now talking with a man who is trying to get her into photographing models instead of being one. Her whole exterior screamed “I’ve had a rough life” but it was that part of our long conversation that made me realized what that woman had really done for a living.

The woman that I was talking with that night was a former prostitute from Amsterdam.

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Just two days before we met this woman, we had been touring around The Netherlands. What a place to visit! I highly recommend adding it to your bucket list. Because my husband has family that lives there, we got to do a pretty extensive tour of Amsterdam and some of the surrounding areas. Part of that tour included the Red Light District. Before we had even left for our vacation, we had a conversation about that part of the city, and decided that we would visit it because it’s part of the cultural experience. It’s an overwhelming thing to walk down a beautiful canal with beautiful homes, but have them be filled with enslaved men and women (Yes, prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, and yes the people choose the profession, but yes they are still enslaved). Walking past, I saw the faces of the people in the windows, and I looked straight into their eyes, but meeting this woman gave me a glimpse into the actual life of someone who works there. I was completely moved.

Our dinner ended shortly after our conversation, and we paid the bill and left.

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Here I am, still thinking about her 6 months down the road. I have so many questions that won’t be answered. What made her decide to be a prostitute? Did she actually choose it or was she forced into it? What was her childhood like?  How did she end up with a husband while being a prostitute? Was he abusive and that’s why she ran away from him? and the list goes on…

I will never see her again, but I’m left with her memory, and the reminder that everyone matters. Every. Single. Person. Matters. It would be easy to turn up your nose at a person like her. It would be easy to ignore her butting into your dinner conversation and carry on as if she didn’t exist. But why would we do that? We are no better than her. Just because my story is less complex, it doesn’t mean that I matter more. Although she wouldn’t stop trying to touch my husband during the conversation, acted crass, and was extremely attention seeking, she was also one of those people that’s so completely and unapologetically themselves, that you instantly love them. She is someone who has immense value whether or not the world around her sees it.

The next time you meet someone with a complex story, who feels completely different than you, focus on the things that make you the same, and enjoy the moment that God has presented you with. All life is intrinsically valuable and worthy of dignity and respect.

 

 

Fall Feelings

Every year the summer sizzle comes to an end, and the cool breeze of fall makes its way into our hearts & lives. This weather change triggers a tug in me for scarves, lattes, and crunching leaves beneath my feet – all things that bring a grin to my face. Because I am instinctively nostalgic about life, it also triggers me to think about the changing seasons of life. Go ahead and read the passage below to understand what I mean.

Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Here is what I find interesting about this passage. Each stanza highlights both a positive and a negative season, signaling both a promised beginning and end to each. Lately I haven’t been in my favorite season. Don’t get me wrong, I know that I am infinitely blessed by God, and have had some really positive things happening in my life, but the overarching feel of this season is hardship.

If you are like me, you have experienced scenarios that make you feel like you are changed forever. They cause you to look back and realize that there is a clear difference between who you were before the scenario happened, and who you turned into after. Luckily, not all of those scenarios are bad. One example of a positive life moment was meeting my husband. He changed the course of my life in the best way. When I’m trying to be sweet to him I say that my life didn’t start getting really good until he entered it. Although that shows that maybe I’m thinking too negatively about all that happened before him (I am only human after all), I really do mean it. There are more good days than bad ones with him. Also, I think about the first missions trip that I went on. Experiencing another culture and letting God break my heart for it changed me in an irreversible way. Every time I go on a trip my dad says, “haven’t you gotten that out of your system yet?” Sorry Dad, I haven’t, and truthfully never will. Seeing the beautiful world that God created is an incredible experience that leaves you wanting more. And again, if you are like me (and the scripture verses above point to this being inevitable), you have experienced those tough scenarios that I referenced before. Thinking back on some of those experiences makes my heart physically hurt. Those experiences are hard to get past. They take pieces of you with them, and they feel like they will go on forever. I know that right now you are probably thinking of your own tough scenarios. Well I’m here to remind you, as well as myself, the seasons change.

It’s human nature to put your focus on the negative things in life. That innate desire to let your mind swirl in negativity came with the fall… no, not fall as in autumn… I’m talkin’ the fall of humanity here ;). Why do I know that, you ask? Because God is only good. Had Adam and Eve not sinned, life would only be filled with the joy of The Lord. Thankfully, that joy will be made complete when we get to heaven.

If we aren’t careful, focusing on all the negativity can give us a little bit of tunnel vision. In my worst moments of negativity I feel powerless to my surroundings, to people, to the universe, or to my thoughts… etc. It’s a very difficult place to be, and you feel like the hope of Jesus is sucked away from you. In those powerless times, you feel like it’s you against the world. Thats where the power of God’s truth comes in. My bible says “He has made everything beautiful in its time…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). These words are power to the “powerless”. Now, if you were listening to me say all of this rather than reading it, I would have been doing air quotes right there. The reason for the air quote action is because if we are rooted in Christ, we are the winners all along. Negative mindsets just keep us from knowing that we are winners. In the thick of it we may think that we are on our own, abandoned to drown, but we never are. That brings me to one of the greatest lessons that I’m constantly relearning. Fighting the battle of a negative season calls for us all to widen our lens. God’s word helps me do that. Instead of focusing on the negative thoughts that harass your mind, leaving you seeing and feeling only bad things, fill yourself with the truth of The Lord. When you do this you will see that there is an end to a bad season. You will see that the next season can, and most likely will be good. You will see that God has control over your life, and because he works everything together for good, you are going to be OKAY! Whew! The devil wants nothing more than to make you feel powerless during your struggles. Again, filling you with truth, it says in the bible to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. God has given us power, so do that starting today.

So here are some things to remember:

  1. The seasons change. You won’t be stuck in a difficult one forever.
  2. The devil wants to make you feel powerless. Guess what, you’re not though… he just wants to make you think you are.
  3. We may not be able to change what happens in life, but God’s word brings the life that we need to fight the battle of a difficult season.
  4. No matter what, if you acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, you win.

Open your heart and breathe a sigh of relief because God’s truth is greater than the devil’s tricks.

A Minnesotan’s Guide to the Best Antique Shops

I’ve been told time and again that I’m an old soul. My obsession with antiques started as far back as I can remember. From the vintage books that I preferred reading as a child, to my awe over beautiful tea cups that belonged to a grandmother who died before my time; my soul has always longed for the things that came before me. One of my favorite childhood memories was when my dad decided to pull out his old record player and vinyl collection. I remember filing through the box of records, oohing and awing over the covers, and picking out the ones that I found beautiful. I lined them up in a big circle on the floor around the room, and danced round and round to the classics.

Now as an adult I fill my house with beautiful antiques, and my soul feels at home while I’m listening to the likes of Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. When it comes to antiques, anything with beauty, history, and a story belongs in my home – even if the story isn’t directly connected to me. I love imagining the people that owned the antiques before me, and how they too treasured what I now have.  On a deeper level, everyone wants to feel connected to something or someone, and buying antiques is one of the ways I do it. With each unique item I fill my house with, I’m becoming part of a story that will live past even my time.

Because of this love, I find it only necessary to share with you some of the best places in our state to find antiques. Each of these stores has great finds at great prices!

1. Annabella’s Antique Mall & Cafe – 407 2nd St, Bovey, MN 55790
(218) 245-2055
Annabella’s is in a small iron range town in northern MN. This shop is quite innovate for its location with a great coffee shop, a speakeasy they rent for parties, and chalk painting classes. They have two levels worth of antiques ranging from statement pieces, to refurbished furniture, and little inexpensive finds. The store itself is adorable and everything is in fabulous condition. I have a beautiful old scale from them in my kitchen that I get compliments on all of the time. What did it cost me? A whopping $15. I looked up the cost of something like that online after I purchased it and it’s typically $40 – $70! I was so happy I scored that crazy deal. When you shop at Annabella’s make sure you get a chai tea latte from their coffee shop because it tastes IDENTICAL to a chai that has won awards at a coffee shop in Uptown, Minneapolis.

2. Second Time Around – 18581 MN-371, Brainerd, MN 56401
(218) 829-1224

This second (or third or even fourth) hand shop is near my childhood home. I have spent many hours getting lost in their shop. I love it and find KILLER deals here. Let me warn you of one thing though… It’s not beautiful, and you have to be willing to get dirty and dig a little bit. I still remember the first time I brought my husband there after raving about it for years. He walked in, took one wide eyed look around and said “THIS is where you shop? It’s definitely not what I expected.” I just had to laugh, because yes it isn’t pretty, but yes you can find awesome stuff there! I turned my Mom onto it several years ago, and she now has several of their items in her home. I have a collection of clear glass apple shaped plates and bowls from the 1960’s that I started from this shop. In my search to complete the collection, I realized how much everyone else charges for what I found there. Three of the apple bowls typically sell for $20 or $30 at other shops. I bought my plates for a whole twenty five cents a piece at Second Time Around! Truthfully, it’s really great as a customer, because sometimes they don’t realize what they have there. I have beautiful tea cups, a night stand, a vintage side chair, and a wicker side table from them. I don’t think I paid more than $25 for each item. Some of those things were a bit worn, but some were nearly perfect! If you are up for the adventure of this place, I dare you not to “judge the book by its cover”. You will see exactly what I mean when you pull into their gravel parking lot and wonder why there are white tents all around the building. Trust me…. you want to dig in those tents. You can find some treasures hiding in there!

3. Staples Mill Antiques – 410 Main St N, Stillwater, MN 55082
(651) 430-1816

This antique of a building dating back to 1850 holds some treasures as well. Being the second mill to ever be built in Stillwater, this building should be seen and explored for it’s beauty if nothing else. Over time it has been used as a sawmill, flour mill, and manufacturing company among other things. Search through this multi-level beauty and their vast collection of antiques to find the piece you have been desiring for your home. Here you will find anything from fine antique furniture, to rare glass pieces, to vintage clothing. Stillwater is a wealthier area, so you can even find high quality antiques here. Although their prices are a little bit steep for my taste (I’m a cheapo), this place is filled with gems.

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4. Brass Bed Antiques – 102 E Superior St, Duluth, MN 55802

(218) 722-1347

This is hands down my FAVORITE antique shop on the planet. They have fabulous prices and unique finds. Two of my favorite pieces I have in my home (a Japanese cherry blossom wall hanging and a large metal vintage MN lard tin) are from this store. I go here once a year and leave with my arms full. I encourage you to take your time and spend at least an hour here. There is nothing spectacular about the building, but their inventory is fabulous. You can find dishes, old sporting equipment, vintage clothing, and furniture all at extremely fair prices. They even let you barter – usually 10% will be taken off the item if you just ask. Push a little harder if you think the price is unfair, and have them call the owner of the booth you found the item in. If you are in to finding rare antiques, here is a story you will enjoy. I had family members in there who fell in love with a pair of pale blue glass candle sticks. When they got home, they looked them up, and there are very few left in existence today. This shop clearly has very good things.

Know of an antique shop that deserves to be in a future post? Comment below or e-mail madaboutminnesota@gmail.com

Guest Blog: What can you do to sell your home this Spring?

Winter is gone and spring has begun!

Spring starts the cycle of seasons, prompting our desires for something fresh and new. Sometimes  that new  thing can be a hair style or wardrobe, but other times it can be something bigger, like selling your home and starting over somewhere new.

You always hear that it’s difficult to sell your home in the winter — No kidding, who want’s to move in 3 feet of snow? — but selling in the spring brings steep competition. I am seeing for sale signs pop up left and right all around my community. Luckily for you, I have an expert available with some tips on how to get your home to stand out from the pack. I am not a home owner myself yet, although I do have an unhealthy obsession with real estate. Seriously, ask me how many homes are for sale in my community and I can not only rattle it off, but I will tell you the price, how much the property taxes are, and what street each house is on. I LOVE architecture and I love houses. When I go for walks each evening with my husband, we pick out our favorite details on the homes we pass, and store them in our memories for when we own one. Don’t feel bad for me though. I may not own a house yet, but I live in my dream historic apartment, which makes me as happy as a clam.

Well, enough of my yammering — Let’s let the expert do his job.

Tips from Spencer Hutton, Realtor with CommonWealth Real Estate Group and TheMLSonline.com, on how to sell your home this Spring!

SPENCER HUTTON | REALTOR®, Lead Agent CommonWealth Real Estate Group Direct: 612-868-4738 shutton@themlsonline.com

Selling in the spring time can be a double edged sword in Minnesota. Buyer’s have been pent up all winter and are excited to get out and look at new inventory of homes, which is a huge win for sellers! However, the curb appeal on our homes can take a huge hit over our harsh winters! So what are the best steps to take to set yourself apart from the competition?

 
1)  Pick Up Trash – You’d be amazed at how much trash gets buried under the snow and pushed into your yard/curbs over the winter months by the plows. Take some extra time to walk around your yard, and even the curbs of your street to pick up leaves, debris and trash. Even if it is out on the streets in the front of the house, it can make your home look shabby. But, if you have taken the time to do this extra step and your neighbors (or competition) have not, your house will stand out!
 
2)  Power Wash/Paint Exterior – Often times, a lot of dirt and grime builds up on the exterior of a home during the winter months. Have someone come power wash the siding or stucco of your home (I recommend a professional to ensure the siding isn’t damaged). Also, if your home needs a fresh paint job, don’t hesitate to invest in this easy way to add instant curb appeal, which is critical area to spruce up before listing your home on the market. You only get one chance at a first impression!
 
3)  New Mulch and Flowers – Spending a little bit of money on mulch and fresh spring flowers will go a long way. In the spring, the streets and lawns of Minnesota can blend into a drab brown color. Set yourself apart by getting fresh natural colored mulch and planting some hardy spring flowers. You can plant the following flowers/shrubs as soon as the ground thaws and they will bloom right around Mother’s Day in May:
  • Lilacs
  • Magnolias
  • Pansies

4)  Replace the Front Door – This is where potential buyers will walk into your home for the first time. It is also where the realtor may fumble with the lockbox for a few moments and the buyers will be glancing at your exterior landscaping, paint job and front door. A beat up and shabby front door will plant in the buyers minds that the rest of the home was not well cared for. On the flip side, a new and stylish front door can sell a home (It’s happened!). Again, you only get one chance at a first impression. Make it count!
 
 
5)  Professional Photography – Make sure your real estate agent is using a professional photographer for your listing. I have a photographer I use on all of my listings. 91% of people start their home shopping journey online (that number continues to rise) and your photos will make or break your listing. You want all of your hard work to jump off the screen for your buyers and a professional photographer with have the right skills and equipment to capture your house at its best. It’s an investment that will pay itself back for you and your real estate agent!
To sum it all up, YOU ONLY GET ONE CHANCE AT A FIRST IMPRESSION (Did I say that yet?) and in today’s quick click culture, you have to capture your home at its best just to get buyers to the front of your home. When they get there you don’t want to leave them feeling disappointed. A little work will go a long way!
 For more advice or to get started on the home buying or selling process, contact me and my team, CommonWealth Real Estate Group of TheMLSonline.com

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To inquire about advertising on Mad About Minnesota, please e-mail madaboutminnesota@gmail.com.

Where YOU can find the BEST pizza in the Twin Cities

My love affair with pizza started in college. You move into your first apartment, don’t know how to cook, and suddenly you meet Jack. You love him instantly but wonder if there is something out there better. What are you thinking? Of course there is, because unfortunately Jack is cheap, and was found in the frozen pizza section. That’s all you could afford and that’s all you had time for at that point.

Luckily I have upgraded my tastes as I have upgraded my budget (although you will still see my freezer stocked with Jack’s Pizza at all times), and I’m on a never ending journey to find the best pizzas around.

The Twin Cities has an amazing food scene where you can find almost anything. I’m so thankful that gourmet pizza is included on that list. For me, ambiance is just as important as taste , and so listed below  are the restaurants I have thoroughly enjoyed in the metro that serve up a great atmosphere and a great pizza. The list is not in any particular order and I highly recommend you hit each place. Comment below if you think I could add to this list! We could add a part 2 to this blog if you give me more inspiration! Like I said, I am always on the hunt for the best pizza, so if it really wows me I will blog some more.

1. Roma

460 Stillwater Rd

Willernie, MN 55090

First of all, I love that this place is off the beaten track a little bit. It feels a little mom and pop-ish but classy at the same time. That is what makes it so charming in my opinion. The ambiance is made up of warm lighting, Italian decor, a beautiful bar, and a cute little deli off the dining room. They are perfect for a quiet date that shows you want to have a meaningful time without being pretentious. Our good friends introduced us to this place a couple of years back and I find myself thinking of Roma often.

They are a family run Italian place, but they also do wood-fired personal pizzas. The crust is thin and bubbles beautifully. You can get something standard if you would like, but go out on a limb and you won’t regret it. My favorite pizza there has blue cheese, prosciutto, figs, and fresh greens on top. The combination of the sweet fig and the savory prosciutto is what brings me back for more. One can rarely go wrong mixing meat (especially salty cured meat) and fruit together in the same dish. As far as price goes, you can spend a little there with pizza prices from $10-$18, or a bit more for an Italian dish.

2. Burch 

1933 Colfax Ave. S 

Minneapolis, MN 55403

  

Everyone is raving about Burch right now, and I’m raving right along with them. Their chef Isaac Becker won the James Beard Best Chef: Midwest award, and highly deserves it. Apart from Burch, he also owns 112  Eatery and Bar Lagrassa, both of which have served me some great eats. 112 was created to give the chefs of Minneapolis a place to go, so obviously the menu is fabulous and the atmosphere is understated. Their owner and head chef claims to hate concept restaurants but now owns 3. Thank goodness for that, because each serves some of the best food in our state.

When you walk into Burch it instantly feels high class. You have to valet your car because it’s Uptown and they have no parking, but that just adds to the experience. Burch reminds me of a restaurant you would find in NYC. Everything is chic and elegant but simple. Although the waiters look as if they would be cold and indifferent (because of how cool and hipster they are – it is Uptown after all) they wait your table with kindness and a vast knowledge of the menu. I can tell they really care about the food they serve.

The staples at Burch are steak, dumplings, and woodfired pizza. All of which I’ve had, and all of which were made with quality ingedients and creativity. You can obviously spend a pretty penny on their steaks, but their pizzas are reasonably priced at $12-$25 each. So don’t shy away thinking you can’t afford it. The object of my desire there is called the Coppa Cotta pizza. It has hazelnuts, smoked pork shoulder, roasted red peppers, and mozzarella balls. I mean seriously, who thinks to put hazelnuts on pizza?! They are fantastic and compliment the smokey pork shoulder well. I have yet to try their Tonno Diavolo with raw ahi tuna but in my opinion, that’s the stuff that dreams are made of. Raw fish + pizza = obsession. Your tastebuds will be amazed at the combination of flavors piled high on their soft fluffy crusts.

3. The Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen

 2515 Nicollet Ave. S

Minneapolis, MN 55404

    

Opened in the spring of 2014 on Eat street (aka Nicollet Ave.), they focus on home grown flavor and well sourced products. A catchphrase they have adopted is farm-to-table. They serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, baked goods, and coffee. They even hold wedding receptions in their restaurant! They were partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, and so you know the locals wanted this in the community. It did so well that they raised over $12,000 to be exact. I think it’s great to see the citizens rally around some people that have a great idea for a restaurant.

Upon opening, they did not disappoint. I am writing about them having only visited the restaurant once. That means I am very impressed. I have a lot more to try on their menu, but during my visit I ordered a lavender lemonade and the Chicken Coop pizza. I know this article is about pizza, but lavender lemonade is my new official favorite drink. They make it so the lavender doesn’t overpower, and really comes out as more of an aftertaste. Okay, now back to the pizza – The Chicken Coop features prosciutto, spinach, ricotta (REALLY good ricotta I might add), pecorino bechamel sauce, and two sunny side up eggs. I didn’t ever think of eggs on pizza, and after I had  this, I wondered why more people aren’t doing it! It’s great! The yoke and the bechamel sauce combine so well that it makes you feel like you are eating at grandma’s house. Their crusts are similar to Burch’s in the fact that they are fluffy, but there is a denseness to these that make them feel more like home. Their prices come in on the low end at $12-$16. Grab dessert at the end of your pizza dinner too, they are a cakery after all.

4. Broders’ Cucina Italiana

2308 W 50th St.

Minneapolis, MN 55410   

    

Take one step in the door and you’ll feel like you have crossed the Atlantic and landed in Italy. This restaurant has charm galore. When you first walk in, you can peruse the shelves filled with specialty Italian cooking items. Around the corner from the shop is their quaint dining room and deli. All food is ordered at the deli and you can get meats, cheese, pasta, salads, desserts, side dishes, and pizza to stay or to go. Of course, everything is fresh and hand made.

Since this article is specifically about good pizza, I will tell you why Broders’ Cucina is at the top of my list. It’s all about the meat. My favorite there is a good ole’ pepperoni and sausage. Their pizza is thin crust, with a light amount of sauce  (I hate too much sauce), piled with cheese, and topped with the best meat I have ever had on a pizza in my life. Their sausage is made in-house with high quality herbs and spices. Even though you can take your pizza to go, try and find a spot in their quaint dining room with the mural painted ceiling. Sit and enjoy your little Italy and savor their authentic flavor. The products on their shelves and the food from their kitchen is imported from Italy. You don’t get much more authentic than that.

Get their pizza by the slice for just a few dollars or order a medium or large to share. Prices for full pizzas range from $10-$20 and are shareable.

How Minnesotans Handle the Spring

It’s all relative. How we handle different experiences has to do with what we’ve already done. Sometimes you know how to navigate a situation like the back of your hand, and others leave you wondering how it will turn out. One thing I know for sure is that as Minnesotans we understand the cold. But something happens year after year leaving us unsure of what to do and how to act. It is spring! Spring isn’t a definitive time in Minnesota and it throws us all out of whack. Yes, all of us. How can I know that we ALL go through this strange and confusing range of emotions in the spring?  Social media. You can learn a lot about human nature from it ;)! So how confused are we? Scroll down to read about our varying actions and emotions regarding this confusing season.

1. We wear inappropriate clothing

One day it’s 50 degrees, so we throw on our Daisy Dukes and a pair of flip flops. Let’s be real here, in warmer climates 50 degrees is not shorts weather. The next day we assume it will be just the same and we look like a fool wearing those same shorts and flip flops in 20 degree weather. You reason with yourself, “but it looked sunny when I peaked out my window this morning!” Don’t worry Minnesotans, it’s not your fault, it’s the erratic weather’s. We’ve all been there and take pity on you.

2. We measure our snow. 

It starts to warm up just a bit and all the snow slowly goes away, but leave it to spring to pile it on us again. In the dead of winter the steady dumping of that white stuff aint no thang. It feels like an injustice in the spring though. To cope with it, we pull our rulers out and measure, post it on social media, and voice our opinions about the unwanted snowfall. It shouldn’t surprise us that it happened, because it happens every year, but this measuring thing is just one of the many ways we can feel like we have control about what’s going on.

3. We get nostalgic

winter wonderland
Winter Wonderland – You have to admit that it’s beautiful

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas comes back onto the playlist, and in between the rants and pictures of the snowfall totals, we see the overly romantic folks talking about the fluffy snow that’s hung lightly on the branches. When they wake up the next morning and realize the snow is still there, they pull out their rulers and post photos of that instead.

4. The Weather Nazi’s terrorize us into putting the flannel sheets on again

AKA the morning news anchors. They get us excited about our warm days and then use phrases like “it won’t stay long” or “beware of plummeting temperatures.” In reality it only goes back down to 20-40 degrees, but they have you so nervous about the plummet that you pull out the flannel sheets again. 35 degree temperatures and a  1″-3″ snowfall in the dead of winter would feel amazing, but they’ve got to build it up come spring time. Why not add on a winter weather advisory for the drama of it all?

5. We take spring break trips to make it through winter forgetting that Minnesota starts to warm up at the same time.

fl temp mn temp

We want to rub it in the faces of our friends that we are basking in the sun. We leave for our trips to Florida and then see pictures of people back home in Minnesota out on walks proclaiming the glory of 60 degrees. In reality, we probably booked that warm weather trip in January when we thought we couldn’t survive the cold temps a day longer. At that point we fail to realize that Minnesota DOES get some warm days by the time spring break hits. It may be warmer where you are, Spring Breakers, but not THAT much warmer. You only get small bragging rights.

6. Minnesotans who have moved away to warmer climates mock us.

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The abuse of winter haunts us years after we have moved away. If you have lived in Minnesota, you will never forget how cold it gets (no matter how many times your therapist tells you that you must). When you make the move, and experience 75 degrees and sunny in March, the sunshine feels like a victors prize that you can’t help but gloat about. You all know you would do the exact same thing if you moved away, so don’t condemn them too much ;).

7. We post TBT pictures to remind us of warmer times.

IMG_3176

We are all guilty of it… We open the shades the morning after a 60 degree day and see the snow falling again. We throw ourselves into a state of depression, snuggle under our electric blankets, and post TBT pictures of our vacations to remind ourselves that it won’t last forever. It can’t, right? RIGHT?

8. Ultimately we get over it, forget that time of year that we were so confused, and then do it all over again the next spring.

Good luck Minnesotans.

Why you should go to The Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis on March 31st

“Cause I was on the verge to scream when you wouldn’t scream about anything” – Ghosts by On An On

       Music is about the art of story telling. If you choose a compelling storyline and add the right details into a song, you will have a masterpiece. People will put it on repeat and listen to it over and over again basking in the feeling it left them with. Miss a vital part of the story, or leave emotions out of the mix and you have another song that sits unplayed in the endless sea of iTunes.

       We listen to music because we want to feel something. We want to connect to something from our past, reach for a desired state of mind, find a song that speaks the words we cannot find, or go on a journey we’ve never yet taken… You name it, and we want to relate. Musicians have the opportunity to use their words, their sounds, and even their silences to pull us into the world of their song to bring us on that emotional ride. The Minneapolis/Chicago based band ON AN ON has the ability to do exactly that. Whether the storyline is familiar or foreign, I feel myself being lured into their songs.

       ON AN ON’s members: Nate Eiesland, Alissa Ricci, and Ryne Estwing are all Minnesota based, which makes me immensely proud. This trio has toured the world and will be coming home for a show. My husband and I already have our tickets. If you have ears and enjoy music you should purchase them too! Their band was previously named Scattered Trees and they broke up several years back. When they reunited in 2012 as ON AN ON I fell in love. Their new sounds are far from mundane or unoriginal; It’s quite the opposite. I would describe their sound as inviting, intriguing, detail oriented, even poetic. The categories I would group them in are Indie and Ambient. Although they are completely unique, if I had to compare their sound to someone else’s, I would call them a toned down version of Radiohead and The Killers, with a little of Bon Iver, and throw in a folk feel for their story telling abilities.

       I also find great pleasure in promoting this band because of my personal story with one of the members. Nate Eiesland, the lead singer of the trio is from my hometown. He is quite a few years older than me and happened to be the heart throb of the church I grew up in. I distinctly remember him heading out on a missions trip to London alongside many others including my sister. They were around the age of 16 and I was at the young age of 10. As they were about to board their plane for London I was begging my cool older sister for a hug. In true older sister fashion (because I really was embarrassing) I got the cold shoulder as she walked away to board the plane. A moment later, my little girl dreams came true as Nate himself said “awe, don’t worry, I will hug you”, and did just that. The stars aligned as it happened, and my little girl world was made.

       Now, I am a happily married 25 year old who has a memory that brings an innocent smile to my face. So, with that memory in mind, I can’t help but support this band and their singer who made my day. It also helps that their sound is so compelling 😉

Their show will be held at The Fine Line Music Cafe in Downtown Minneapolis on March 31st.

The doors open at 7:00pm with the show starting at 8:00pm.

Tickets can be found at http://www.etix.com/ticket/online/performanceSearch.jsp?performance_id=2494742&cobrand=first-avenue and go for $15.00 for general admission or $30 for reserved balcony seating. They will be playing alongside Chappo and Big Data (Big Data is the headliner and so you should purchase these tickets).

I hope you all attend and enjoy it as much as me. Need a bit more convincing? Then keep reading.

Why you should attend ON AN ON’s show on March 31st:

1. It gives you a chance to up your cool factor 😉

ON AN ON is mainstream enough but still under the radar. Don’t you hate that moment when you realize the band you have loved for years just got insanely trendy and you are no longer different for liking them? Well this band is just trendy enough to be loved, but not so big that you will loose your cool factor. (Admit it, we all like to feel superior from time to time)

2. It gives you a chance to “shop local” 

I am a big believer in shopping local. I live in a town with individually owned shops, I lean toward locally owned restaurants, and I want to help support the arts that come out of my state. If we lived in a world with only big corporations, chain stores, and pop music then all individuality would be gone. Be loyal to the people trying to offer you a variety of unique products and services.

3. It gives you a reason to go downtown

I love living in a suburb, but find myself going to downtown Minneapolis less and less. This makes me sad. The only reason we have suburbs is because the city is there. When I am excited about Minneapolis I say “it’s only a 20 minute drive!” When I’m less excited, I complain to my husband because it’s really closer to 40. Make the drive. An adventure is always worth it. If you are coming from farther away, and the thought of driving downtown is intimidating, then take advantage of our light rail system. Park in a suburb and ride the rails into the city for your adventure.

4. Because they are a really great band

ON AN ON got special mentions on MTV.com and TEENVOGUE.com. How did they come up with this original sound, you ask? Well, try having some leftover studio time that you want to use from when your first band broke up. They went to the studio without any specific sonic goals and they came up with something short of musical genius. Thus began ON AN ON. If you go to a studio with very few ideas, and come up with this, your career will be golden. Check out their songs, The Hunter & Ghosts.

http://buzzworthy.mtv.com/2013/01/25/on-an-on-the-hunter-video/

5. And maybe, just maybe, you need a night away from the kids

Enough said.

—————————————————————————————————————————

Check out a preview of their new song which was recorded at Sunset Sound in sunny Los Angeles with legendary producer Joe Chiccarelli (Spoon, White Stripes, The Shins, My Morning Jacket). The first preview into ON AN ON’s second coming is the hauntingly suspenseful “Drifting”, inspired by falling asleep behind the wheel and trying to forget unforgettable things.

Disappearing Winter: A Minneapolis day trip to take before spring officially arrives

If any of you readers are like me, you find yourself holed up inside from October to March (and let’s be honest about it, sometimes April). The snow, the ice, the wind; it should all just truly disappear. I have spent many a year curled up inside my house sipping coffee, snuggling in blankets, reading books, and watching my favorite movies all in an effort to avoid the terrible world that is winter. I make minimal trips to the store, and try to get from my car to the safety of home as quick as possible. Yes, I admit it, I am a closet hermit throughout the winter. To continue in my theme of honesty, it gets really boring just sitting around even though my Instagram makes it look otherwise. 

 We had a friend from El Salvador visit this last week and I realized I can’t have her sit indoors with me and just wait out this dreaded cold. We’ve got to show her something! Our friend is from a HOT climate and has never been in weather colder than 60 degrees. What can Minnesota offer someone from paradise? In my effort to help her enjoy her time, I found myself inspired. Minnesota can offer a lot. The leafless trees are not barren but tall and haunting. The snow is not blinding, but glistening, The ice is mesmerizing rather than thick and cumbersome. The wind, well I still hate the wind, but you get the idea. Luckily, this time of year offers the best of two worlds. You can still experience some of the beauty that winter has to offer, but it’s starting to feel like spring. Take advantage of this amazing time of year before it’s gone!

This weekend was an opportunity to embrace the cold & just have fun!

On Saturday we pulled on our boots and went trekking outdoors. Where did we end up, you ask?

Minnehaha Falls

DSC_0139
The Minnehaha Falls from above

It was one of my favorite days of this entire winter! The Minnehaha Falls are a great spot to visit in the summer, but it’s much more mesmerizing in the winter! The falls are surrounded by gates and fences that say closed, or no trespassing. They even state that it is illegal to walk down to the falls in the winter, so this activity is not for those afraid of criminal activity ;). For me, being a goody goody in most of my life, I welcomed the mischief! A lot of Twin Cities natives know about this spot, but growing up in northern Minnesota I can say that not everyone knows this is there! It wasn’t until I moved to the Twin Cities for college that I found this gem. It is well worth the adventure.

DSC_0146
Acting touristy at the falls with Stacy & Wendy

We had planned to do the falls in a half hour, but once we got there we realized there is much more exploring to be done. If you are taking a trip to the Twin Cities and want to visit Minnehaha Falls, I would plan for an hour and a half. The falls are located in the sprawling Minnehaha Park which is filled with walking trails and trees, and borders the beautiful Mississippi River. We Minnesotans are hearty, and so many people were out walking their dogs and jogging in the cold. Once you get to the falls, there are many things you can do. Be a rule follower and just appreciate from the bridge and walking paths above the falls, or break the rules and jump the fence. (*Disclaimer- I made the personal decision to visit the falls close up, as a lot of visitors do, but I am not telling people to engage in criminal behavior, or put themselves in harms way by walking out on thin ice.)

Once you are down at the level of the falls, you can climb around on the frozen stream and walk right up to the spot where the falls have frozen in place. If you are lucky and get there on a day when it’s relatively quiet, you can hear the open water flowing beneath you and down behind the frozen part of the falls.

DSC_0157Pause for a photo op and then get ready to get messy. Oh, did I mention that you shouldn’t wear anything you aren’t willing to let get dirty? If you are facing the falls, there is an opening on the right side that is said to have never frozen shut. Climb up the hill directly below that spot, or jump over the fence by the staircase and walk across the hill to get there (this is the messy part…. we went on a day when the ice was melting and got muddy)! The opening takes you into a magical wonderland behind the falls. If Narnia were a real place, I think it would be located here. Depending on the time of year and time of day you meander behind the falls, you can see the ice illuminated in brilliant blues and greens. It is a spectacular sight to behold, and if you saw nothing but that, the trip would be well worth it.

The falls are beautiful, but no day trip to Minneapolis is complete without completely stuffing your face full of the amazing cuisine this city has to offer. So here is a step by step of how to plan your day.

A day trip for that inbetween time; When It’s not fully winter and not fully spring

1. Spend your morning at Minnehaha Park and Falls taking in the brilliance.

2. Grab some lunch! When you are ready, take a 15 minute drive further into Minneapolis and visit one of my FAVORITE restaurants that is sure to help you warm up! What restaurant am I talking about?  None other than The Quang (located on Nicollet Ave. AKA, Eat Street). Order a steaming bowl of Pho (pronounced FUH) which is a Vietnamese soup filled with yummy yummy goodness. This soup is all about the broth, and in my attempts to satisfy the craving at home, I can say that The Quang’s broth cannot be replicated! In that broth sits herbs, rice noodles, beef strips and/or meatballs (you can order other meats but this is my preference), and add fresh bean sprouts, basil, and hot peppers. To add even more flavor, squirt some hoisin and siracha sauce in. You will not regret eating this tasty dish, and if you are like me, you will start craving it from the second you step out the restaurant door.







3. Did you save room for dessert? Bundle up and take a block and a half walk down to Glam Doll Donuts! Step back in time in this retro themed bakery. Order a donut or two, or ten ;), in any flavor and I promise you will enjoy. They have the amazing ability to make their donuts light and airy yet dense. I don’t know how one can accomplish that goal! I also enjoyed a warm Chai tea when I was there, but I must warn you, if you aren’t ready for a very authentic Indian Chai taste you might be surprised. What did I taste in that chai to make it so different from others? Cardamom, and a lot of it! If you are up for something a little bit different than the norm, then you will thoroughly enjoy your chai.



4. By this time it might be 2:00pm and you far away travelers are thinking of heading home, but don’t! Take a quick jaunt over to Richardson Nature Center in Bloomington. During this time of year they teach their visitors how to tap trees, collect the sap, and boil it to make syrup! My husband and I spend time with his family in the sugar maples in Grand Rapids every year and it’s such a fun activity. It makes you feel like you are stepping back in time and are living off the lands like the natives did! It takes a lot of time and sap to make syrup (I’m talking hours and gallons) so you may not be able to sample your own batch at the nature center, but they always have some for you to try. 





Introduction

Since I decided to start this blog on a whim today, I thought an introduction would be necessary.

My name is Brianna, and I’m a Minnesotan.

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I enjoy eating good food, being around great people, loving God, spending time with my family, and seeking out adventure in life. I have been married to my husband Dan for almost 4 years. He’s a stud of a man, that one. He is a sports fan and enjoys playing hockey and golf, is a teacher, musician, and all around good person. I will leave it at that because he is a much more private person than I, and will be mortified to read he is in my first blog post! Don’t worry honey, this is just one of the many perks (or quirks…. depending on how you look at it) that comes with being married to me!

“Why would you start a blog about Minnesota?”

Many of you are probably asking this exact question. Or possibly it’s “what qualifies you to do so?”, or even, “do you think you are such a great writer that we will all want to read what you have to say?”. I wish I were that cool, but frankly, no. This idea stemmed from my growing love of good food and good entertainment.

My husband and I were driving home one night after a fun night out with friends and I looked at him and said, “wouldn’t it be amazing to be a food critic, or a blogger? What if you could write about what you loved and people actually cared? Maybe you could even get PAID someday to do the things that you love doing?” Then I stared off into space and imagined what that world could look like. I do not think that I will get paid for doing this, but I do know that I will find great pleasure in writing about the things I love, and inviting you to explore those things with me.

“So what will this blog be about? And how often will it be posted?”

So glad you asked….

If any of you have read the amazing book, Strengths Finder, by Tom Rath; I am an INCLUDER by nature. I can’t help but pull all of you into the things I love. By being Minnesotan, and appealing to Minnesotan readers, I think you will also love what I love. So if I had to give you a list, here it is:

What to do

Where to eat

Businesses worth mentioning

Where to shop

The great outdoors

The people I love

Causes worth caring about

How to do life in Minnesota

To answer my second question. I am a wife, music director at a church, recruiter and internship coordinator for a group home (shout out to ACR Homes, woo!), and I help coordinate a local level Miss America pageant. This blog will be purely for the fun of it, so I would expect to see a post once a month!

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Stay tuned for my first OFFICIAL blog about getting outdoors in the dead of winter! It will be a fun one!