Maybe it is being in my thirties or having two kids instead of one or the postpartum anxiety, but I’ve reached this feeling of having stalled out. That feeling where you’ve accomplished all of the really cool things in your life. That new experiences are a thing of the past. That you are to old to try something different, challenge yourself, and face down insecurities.
It is way to early in life for that!
So I am embarking on a journey to fully embrace what I started this blog for, hopefully gain a little of my swagger back (who am I kidding I never had swagger, I’d twist my ankle), and find not only peace but growth in this new season of life.
When I started the blog I was transitioning into motherhood and out of what I thought was going to be a long term career in travel. I started this blog as a way to stay accountable to my goal of keeping my eyes open to the world and embracing exploration. We spend so much time online and shuffling from place to place we miss the adventure that lives in each day. I started this blog to eat, travel, and meet amazing people and build my own adventure.
I want to continue to grow, learn, and challenge myself. I want to finish life saying I really lived it and provide lots of amazing memories for my children. I want to try new things – things that scare me, that make me anxious, that force me to face down insecurities and unrealistic fears of failure.
I want to meet new people – yes me, a hardcore introvert with anxiety (legit I take meds for that) want to meet people. I want to connect with people following their passions and writing their own story of life. I want to be inspired by their creativity, joy, and ability to face down their own fears.
And of course I want to eat and travel to experience new flavors, see new places, and meet new people.
So, I’m reclaiming that challenge and I’m sharing the journey as a way to stay accountable, provide a journal for my kids to look back on, and, hopefully, inspire some of you to do take on a new challenge, explore a new place, or meet some new people.
Here we go!
As we drove the winding roads of backwoods Wisconsin I was slightly concerned about the dining option for the evening. Really, what sort of restaurant would survive out in the middle of nowhere? Pulling into the packed driveway all my worries disappeared. In fact, I felt right at home (or at least like I was at my grandparent’s house) as we parked on the grass and approached the farmhouse.
As we soon learned, the gorgeous farm was originally owned by Dr. Arthur Gillette whom the Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul is named after. He had used the location as a retreat for himself, his family, and his colleagues. In 1921, Dr. Gillette passed away and left the farm to his great nephew. Throughout the years, several generations of the Gillette family worked the land and called the farm home. The land stayed in the family until it was sold in 2012 to Michele Law and Jason Martell.
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away and while I’m sure this only applies to the fresh fruit I will salute the adage with a toast of crisp apple cider. Summer is quickly fading and fall will soon be upon us and one of the few things that lifts my spirits when thinking of saying good-bye to the warm weather is the thought of all those fresh picked apples and the tasty creations they become.
One of the best places to enjoy the more mature of the many apple based beverages is in a region known more for its wine and cheeses than anything else. The Pays d’Auge area of Normandy, France is home to the “Route du Cidre” or Cider Road and a great epicurean extension from Paris. Only a few hours’ drive from Paris the region boasts fertile farmland and delicious cuisine using seafood, duck, and the famous Camembert cheese. For a leisurely fall getaway rent a car or hire a driver and follow the clearly marked route through the countryside.
Driving from Paris you will enjoy small villages and traditional houses as you peruse this hilly region. Make base at the heart of the Pays d’Auge in the village of Cambremer where you can enjoy historical buildings, a traditional market, and life in a French town. From here you can enjoy the Cider Route as one circuit or take several days to visit villages on the route and short detours to orchards not officially on the marked path. Following the signposts you will find several farms or distilleries advertising cider and calvados, a strong apple brandy. Most distilleries are open Monday through Saturday, 10AM to late afternoon and offer tours of the orchards and/or production facilities. Many of these tours are led by members of the families that have been working the land and producing the cider for hundreds of years. You will discover how cider goes from tree branch to bottle and, of course, partake in a few tastings along the way.
This region has been granted appellation controlee status from the government for its ciders and calvados, meaning it has been certified as the specific region the product will be manufactured in and producers must hold to a set of defined standards. What is means for the consumer is consistently high quality and a wonderful drink to toast the beginning of fall.
One of the things I enjoy the most about travel is the history. The stories of the people who came before me, what the place was like decades ago, and the events that shaped the destination.
Maybe it comes from being surrounded by a family of history buffs or growing up in the Land of Lincoln where nearly every corner includes a plaque or statue or some other marker of historic relevance. Wherever it came from, it started early and has continued throughout my life. It has followed me, or possibly led me, around the globe.
So when I heard about an app called FieldTrip I had to try it out. It is super easy to use and is great for those times when you find yourself in a new place and don’t have any sites planned.
I started with our current neighborhood and was surprised at how many historic sites and interesting things have been hiding right under my nose. The gorgeous house I pass nearly daily and always wondered how old it was? Turns out it was built in 1887 by a somewhat eccentric German immigrant farmer. Or the building my daughter likes to call the castle? I knew it was called the Stockyards Exchange, but had no idea it was also built in 1887 and once housed the offices for the country’s largest stockyard . . . and for one year in 1998 it was the Castle Hotel (maybe Olivia was right after all!).
Even if history isn’t your thing, this app allows you to narrow recommendations by interest: history, cool & unique, architecture, food, drinks and fun, and art and museums. You can save places as favorites or to return to later.
If you have your smartphone and the FieldTrip app you should never run out of places to visit . Happy travels!
Each time we travel, near or far, we find something that we want to bring home to make our little corner of the world a little brighter. Sometimes we see things that remind us how lucky we are to have the home and life that we have. If you open your eyes and mind you will always learn something to carry with you.
Chicago, the Windy City; the epicenter of city life in Illinois. Growing up in the Land of Lincoln Chicago was the big city to visit for school trips, fancy prom dresses, and weekend getaways for those that could afford it.
Now, living in Minnesota, it is still a quick trip for a weekend getaway, especially when your travel pals are still located in Illinois. The easy access, affordability, and sense of familiarity is why we chose Chi town for our first annual sisters weekend.
We desired a little relaxation and plenty of space to have fun so we rented a house instead of going the hotel route. I found a great little place on Home Away located near Lincoln Square and if I ever moved to Chicago this is probably where I would end up. (Other than the fact that the house across the street was going for close to a million!)
Easy access to the brown line, a beautiful park, lots of little restaurants and local shops, and plenty of history. Designated Lincoln Square in 1925, the area use to be heavily German. You will still find a few German relics, such as the Chicago Brauhaus, but the neighborhood has become an eclectic mix of smaller chains such as Fleet Feet and unique shops like Merz Apothecary.
Day one I found a tasty little place named Gene’s Sausage Shop that would be my go-to spot if I lived there. A great deli, prepared salads, and killer giant pretzels; not to mention, the upper level alcohol selection and rooftop beer and wine garden. Then of course there was the consignment shop, A Secret Closet, where I grabbed a whole new outfit in less than 15 minutes and chatted with the friendly staff.
Once my sisters joined me the next day, we spent a little more time wandering Lincoln Square for shopping and dining. We enjoyed a morning coffee stop at The Grind, which seemed to be the favorite among the locals. The wait in line was well worth it! We walked out with delicious iced coffees and a moist zucchini muffin.
A quick trip on the brown line and a switch to the blue line got us to Wicker Park/Bucktown. This area is now very popular among the younger Chicagoans, and therefore has a reputation as a hipster area. However, it has great shopping, restaurants, and people watching. And it is a nice alternative to the crowds and large national chains that clutter the Magnificent Mile. We wandered up and down the neighborhood and enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Francesco’s Forno. The wide open windows and classic rustic settings made us feel like we were dining al fresco in a café a world away. We made a post lunch pit stop at the Toms store which offers coffee that gives back along side their comfy shoes that give one for one.
After a long day of walking, our legs were cramping and we were ready to head back to our apartment. We decided to stay close to home base and dine in Lincoln Square. Of course, that didn’t really narrow our options or make it any easier to decide on a restaurant. We finally settled on Barba Yianni Grecian Taverna for Mediterranean and it was a great choice. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable; and the food was fantastic and authentic. We highly recommend the humos, greek salad, lamb kebobs, gyro platter, and olive plate. Really I don’t think you can go wrong with anything on the menu, but be prepared to eat big or share a meal.
Day two we hopped back on the brown line and jumped to the red line to go check out Navy Pier. Unfortunately, Navy Pier is undergoing a massive redevelopment and is currently missing some of the grandeur and fun that it is known for. I’m sure it will look amazing when it is finished, but for now I’ll keep it off the list of possible stops for future trips.
Although Navy Pier was a bust, we really enjoyed our lunch at Osteria via Stato. So if you find yourself in the River North neighborhood, stop by for great pizza, Italian specialties, and drinks.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have more time to explore further, but I’m sure we will visit again. Good thing, because I’ve already started a list of places I haven’t gotten to visit yet: Chicago Foodseum, the Andersonville neighborhood, Scone City in Wicker Park, River Roast for a Hoosier Mama Pie. Any other things I should add to the list?
It has been nearly two weeks since I was on here, but for good reason. We have been traveling and spending family time together while I’ve been mulling over revamping this site.
So one thing that I’m reworking is the motivation Mondays. Olivia is beginning to really remember things we say to her and I have so much advice and so many words of wisdom (my own and from others) that I want to share with her that once a week doesn’t seem like enough . . . but it is a start. I want her to know about the power of travel, how to treat herself and others in a caring way, that good food is a must, and that even as one person she can change the world.
If there are any favorite quotes or words of wisdom you would like to share please let me know.
I love traveling with Olivia and one of my top goals as a parent has been to show her as much of the world as possible. However, I have recently come to realize that traveling solo and traveling adults only can be just as important.
This past weekend I met up with my sisters for a long weekend in Chicago (more on that next week). Hopefully this will be the beginning of an annual tradition because it was just what we all needed.
I had a day along before they arrived and then we had two days of fun, laughter, adult conversation, shopping, good food, and relaxation. So here are just five reasons why I know I will do it again and why I think all the overworked, overstressed moms should do the same.
1. You will be reminded of why you love travel and what you hope to share with your little one. I love traveling as a family, but I will be the first to admit that traveling with kids can be stressful and no matter what it is different. Going solo reminded me of why I love the airport – the people watching, the excitement and expectation of seeing new things, and the sense of possibility that hangs in the air. Once my feet the ground in Chicago it was about being out of your comfort zone and soaking in as much as possible.
2. It is a reminder of who you are. Yes, I am a mother and a wife, but I am also a dozen other things that I was long before I took on either of those roles. Getting away from the daily grind can give you the space to remember things you love to do and things you want to bring back into your everyday life. I was reminded how much I love running when I don’t have a constant thought in the back of my mind that she might wake up before I am finished. Or that I have been a sister longer than a wife or mother and that we can rely on each other for advice, honesty, and laughter.
3. You get a glimpse of the outside world. As a mother, especially a mother of a young child, your attention is always focused on them when they are around. You can try to fight it and give partial attention to what is around you, but there is always this mental force that draws you back to them. Are they safe? Are they having fun? Are they getting what they need? Without that, you can let that mental field down and relax your mind. You can take a look around in a way you haven’t done in a while.
4. Sleep. I’m not going to lie, the opportunity to sleep and rest your mind and body is beyond compare.
5. You will miss them and be reminded of how much you love your life for all of its craziness. When we are in the thick of everyday life we often can’t grab even a second of peace. We can’t wait to get away and leave it all behind. However, you will miss their little smiles, their stories, and their hugs before too long.
I have certainly had my fair share of beer and wine, but at heart I will always be a spirits girl. There is something about the vast array of scents, flavors, and mouth feel that excites and hypnotizes me. Which is why I am so excited to see a craft spirits movement blooming in Minnesota. People who are passionate about what they are doing draw me in like a magnet and if they have a bottle of vodka to sip while we talk all the better.
It was one of these magnetic stories that drew me in this past weekend. My husband and I found ourselves without a toddler in tow so I decided it was time for an actual adult excursion. With a little searching I came across the Du Nord Craft Spirits Distillery tour and Cocktail Room. The story behind how people came to do what they do and the history of a product have always fascinated me. This tour did not disappoint.
We arrived a little before our 3:00pm tour time at a rather non-descript building in an underdeveloped area of Minneapolis. Located just off of Hiawatha and the light rail line I had been past this block hundreds of times and had no idea this was here. Of course, in my defense the cocktail room only opened in January 2015 after Minnesota law changed to allow distilleries to offer more to drink on-site than just tastings. So we partook of the rewards of the law change with a couple of pre-tour cocktails. Both the Bee’s Knees and Du Nord Salty Dog were phenomenal – beautiful color and fantastic balance of flavor.
With our cocktails in hand we joined a small group of fellow spirits lovers for a behind the scenes look at this small operation. Started by a husband and wife team they are keeping it completely Minnesotan. The name Du Nord comes from the state motto, L’Etoile du Nord (The Star of the North). They are a grain to glass operation – all of the grain comes from Minnesota growers (directly from the farmer when possible), is distilled in house, and bottled for sale at local liquor stores. As our guide Ed told us, you will never see a Du Nord Rum because Minnesota cannot grow sugar cane.
So they have started with Gin and Vodka and are working on adding Whiskey and Bourbon (takes 2-3 years). The process of how science and art come together to create these elixirs was fascinating. I guarantee after learning about where and how they make the cuts, how good distilleries don’t strip away the flavor, and what goes into creating a unique formula you will have a whole new appreciation for quality spirits and the amazing things being done locally.
I am very excited to keep on eye on what Du Nord is up to since they are coming out with a few new formulas, including a new world flavor Gin (will have no juniper) that people will be able to vote on to pick which gets bottled and distributed, that whiskey and bourbon that will be sitting in the aged barrels, and as part of the Minnesota Distillers Guild working with the MN legislature to pass a bill that would allow on-site bottle sales similar to what you can currently do at wineries.
Until then, I will just have to head out to my favorite liquor store and pick up a bottle of L’Etoile Vodka and Fitzgerald Gin (named after famous Minnesotan F. Scott Fitzgerald). Or I can organize a group of friends for a bottling party where I get an even closer look behind the scenes when we get to help bottle the spirits and we walk away with a parting gift of our own. And of course there is always the Cocktail Room with great atmosphere, big windows to look in on the distillery, and even a food truck on-site for some Italian nibbles – happy hour here we come!