Archive | October 2014

Just Going Here was Worth the Trip!

“It’s been years since I’ve seen an eagle,” I said. All four of us murmured our awes.  Just as we were rounding the corner on our way to Lanesboro, Minnesota, we spotted two eagles hovering over the remains of a deer. The closer we came to the deer, the higher the eagles flew towards the cloudy sky. Their wings stretched out and up to lift them higher.

The charming town is nestled in and surrounded by colorful bluffs. Some trees were bare, their leaves blown off by some earlier wind. Others were green, holding tight to their leaves. The ones that changed showed us rusty colors or yellow leaves that mimicked the sun.

Denise drove us down Parkway Avenue and we passed by bed and breakfasts, little shops, restaurants, an art gallery and theater. Bicyclists and walkers could be seen travelling over the bridge that crosses over the Root River.

After we found the Cottage House Inn, the bed and breakfast where we stayed, we stopped at one of the gift shops. We talked about how fun it would be to go on an Amish tour.  There were guided or self-guided tours available.  We decided on the self-guided tour. We bought a CD, and when we went out the door, we noticed that the clouds had magically disappeared.  The sun greeted us as if welcoming our decision to explore on our own.

We got back in the car to find our way to the beginning of the tour. On the way, we traveled a scenic route where we saw the beautiful valley. Patches of bright green and tired yellow fields made patterns below. When we found our starting place at the intersections of Highways 52 and 16, we started the CD and listened to the narrator who gave us directions on which way to travel. In between directions, the narrator talked about the living and working habits of the Amish people. He instructed us that we were only to visit the farms that had signs that said they were open for business. He also told us not to take any pictures because it’s against the Amish people’s beliefs. We traveled along the white dirt road and found the first farm.

The farm was large, and the white house stood tall. White shirts hung upside down in front of the porch. The sleeves swayed in the wind waving and welcoming us. We got out and walked to the small red shed. There was only one other car in the driveway. It belonged to a family of customers inside the shop. A teenage boy was on duty as the cashier.

At this shop we found handmade rugs, quilted pot holders, baskets, wooden turntables, rockers, jams, honey, and pickled beets. We each bought something. I got a jar of raspberry jam and a jar of honey.  We were proud because we made it this far on our adventure! When we arrived at the next farm, we were greeted by a beautiful brown horse that was hooked up to a buggy. The horse looked at us as we smiled back. We wondered if someone was getting ready to go for a ride or if the horse was just there for the customers to admire.  The shop was surrounded by large pumpkins and multicolored corn. When we entered, we were greeted by a teenage girl. We noticed how dark and cold the building was. The other shop’s stove kept us warm. This shop had handmade furniture, cashew candy and vegetables for sale. We didn’t buy anything but went back in the car to find the next farm. This is where we had a little trouble finding our way.

The narrator instructed to restart the odometer after each visit. We figured out how to do that, but when the narrator’s instructions said to go south on a road that only travels east and west, we got confused. He told us that “when we went past the little school-house,” but we couldn’t find a school-house.  We travelled south the way we thought he meant.  If we wouldn’t have travelled that way, we might not have seen the Amish man plowing a field the old-fashioned way. There were farms with modern equipment mixed in with farms surrounded by buggies. After trying to find our way and after a very large semi-truck raced past us and kicked up so much white dust that we weren’t able to see, we decided to return the CD and get our $20 deposit back in Harmony, Minnesota.

After we returned the CD, visited a couple of shops where we admired beautifully handmade Amish quilts and furniture, we went back to the bed and breakfast in Lanesboro. When we got to our room, we noticed that we didn’t have a TV, but there was a radio in the corner. A little diary on the dresser explained how we were staying in the Penny Room, and the visitors are supposed to look for and then hide their own three pennies. I only found one penny inside the dresser on top of the bible and didn’t think to hide my pennies because we all were too busy gabbing and munching on cheese, crackers, dips and salami.  We talked about how the narrator must have been mixed up on his directions and wondered if someone turned the street sign around as some sort of joke or if there was a scratch in the CD. We realized we liked the experience even though we couldn’t find the way we were supposed to go.


Can you find Slant Avenue?

We explored Lanesboro some more. We found the Scenic Valley Winery which was only a block away and has been in business for 20 years. We sampled three different types of wine. The first one I tried was rhubarb. It tasted tart and was hard to swallow. I also tasted the harvest wine, and we each decided to buy a bottle to bring home.  The cranberry was my favorite.

We walked to Riverside on the Root, a restaurant that is home to the Dirty Martini Lounge and enjoyed delicious cosmos and sandwiches.


After dinner, we noticed that the Lanesboro Art Gallery was hosting a show. Many beautiful paintings, drawings, sculptures, jewelry, lawn ornaments, and post cards were for sale. After wandering around town a little longer, we went back to the Cottage House Inn where we saw people playing cards on the main floor, with a bottle of whiskey as the centerpiece. We chatted the night away like old friends do while munching on peanut M&Ms and licorice.

All the adventures of the day made for a sleepy group.  We quickly fell asleep, but were jarred awake when the town’s siren went off around midnight.  A few minutes later, sirens from firetrucks could be heard and traveling off in the distance.  The volunteer fire department was quick to respond, but we never found out where the fire was.

The next day we asked a man who was working at the gas station where to go for breakfast, and luckily, he told us how to get to the Pastry Shoppe.

We got a table next to the window just in time as many people arrived after us and had to wait for a place to sit. The specials were listed on the chalkboard on the wall:  Ham, Onion and Cheese Quiche, a Pastry Breakfast, and Biscuits and Gravy. A framed article explained about the menu at the place, but the waitress explained it better.

“Is that your menu?” I asked as I pointed to the chalkboard.

“We don’t have a menu. People can order whatever they want, and we see if we can make it, but we don’t make pancakes or waffles. We have French toast. He makes the best hollandaise sauce in the world,” she said as she pointed to the chef with her pencil.  “We’re out of the Biscuits and Gravy.”

Kathy and I ordered the Quiche, Denise ordered the pastry that was piled high with hash browns, ham and eggs, and Judy ordered Eggs Benedict and agreed that it was a pretty great hollandaise sauce.

“Just going here was worth the trip,” I said. It was a very tasty breakfast.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to bring you more coffee,” the waitress said when we were in line to pay our check. “The next time you come, just go grab the coffee pot and help yourself. This is a casual place.” We asked her to let the chef know how much we all enjoyed our breakfast.

We ended our stay by exploring trails and walking along paths that used to be an abandoned railroad track.  The next time we visit the “Bed and Breakfast Capital of Minnesota,” we might have to rent one of those bikes built for four.  If you’re ever in the area, it would be worth your while to stop by for a visit!

Shook Myself Back to Reality

“Can you please make a new place card for me?” my daughter, Laura, texted me. She explained how I needed to change her last name to her new married name.

“I didn’t even think of that,” I said.

“Neither did I!” said my daughter. My future son-in-law was the one who thought of that important detail!  Old habits are hard to break, I thought.

The day before, the three of us sat at the kitchen table. I had printed off place cards of the names of all the guests who would be attending the wedding. The weekend before that, we figured out where people would sit. The table number was on each card too. My future son-in-law held the spreadsheet in his hand, read off the names and table numbers while Laura stamped the back with that person’s food choice.  The choices were represented by a cow, pig, chicken, carrot or fish.

When I first created the spreadsheet, I made eight columns. The names were first, with a column for each person’s response of yes or no, and if they were going to attend, what their food choice was. Of course I put Laura’s name on the sheet the way her name was at the time, and that’s how I made up her place card. I think I might have made a mental note about changing her name later, but with all the commotion, I forgot.

When wedding plans started unfolding, I wondered if Laura would keep her last name. She informed us that she was going to take her husband’s last name, and we all supported her decision. I told her the story about how my dad wanted me to keep my last name as my middle name, but since we gave Laura my previous middle name, I didn’t mind if she kept it.

Before my husband and I got married, my dad had a little heart-to-heart talk with me.

“You should keep your last name as your middle name,” he said one day, out of the blue. I must have had a blank stare on my face. “Then people will know where you came from.”

I agreed right away. I didn’t question his reasoning because I thought it was a great idea. I didn’t really like the thought of losing my beautiful middle name of Elizabeth that is nine letters long, but I knew I couldn’t fit all those names on my driver’s license, and I doubted all that would fit on a check. Checks are only so big.

When Laura reminded me that she was going to have a new last name, it was five days before the wedding. I had started counting the days when it was no longer possible to count the months. As the day got closer, the amount of time we spent finishing up small details got busier. Being busy like that helped me realize we were working towards a goal, and finishing things up made me feel happier about how everything was moving along. As the day got closer, the less busy I was, and I started to think. When I got that text about how I needed to change the place card, it made what was really happening all sink in a little more, and I realized why Dad wanted to me to keep my last name. He wanted to hold onto that little part of me that was my name and who told the world who I was.  I was his daughter.

Up until that time, I thought of the wedding day as being the day I would gain a wonderful son-in-law. For the first time, five days before the wedding, was the day I worried I was losing my daughter, and it was all just because I had to change her name on the place card.

After about three minutes of worrying, I shook myself back to reality. Deep inside a mom knows “that nothing in this world can sever the bond between mother and daughter.” (From Mother of the Bride Article.) After I read that article, I wondered if I should have been freaking out more about how I’m aging and turning into an “elder.” The subject matter in the article is true. I am getting older, but aren’t we all? We’re all moving into new phases of our lives. The best thing to do is go along for the ride and look forward to what will come our way.  The ride keeps going no matter what, so it’s best to enjoy it.

Besides, anyone who is going to have a son-in-law who helps with stamping place cards, is one lucky lady!  Even though Laura will change her last name, she will always know where she came from!

If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies. ~Author Unknown