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Travel Dreams - Egypt

Dear Travel Diary,
 
I was in middle school when I became interested in ancient Egypt and the many stories that have come out of the civilization.


It started as a simple history lesson that grew into a fascination and an insatiable curiosity.


The symbol of ancient Egypt, in my opinion, is King Tut. He was 9 years old when he assumed the throne. Imagine Landen being crowned king! His tomb was discovered intact, without the modern technological advances of sonar or drones, on November 4, 1922.

Imagine being the first to lay eyes on such treasures for the first time in thousands of years. Howard Carter had that experience, and what's incredible, though he can claim one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in history - he had no formal training as such. 

To this day, I would love to travel to Egypt … to Cairo … to Luxor … to the Valley of the Kings.

(The Valley of the Kings - source)

I would love to travel by boat on the Nile River.

I would love to walk through the infamous museum in Cairo that curates the country’s incredible history. (Update: a new museum is being constructed in Giza that will house even more of this country's treasures.)

I would love to walk in the footsteps of this history, but even more so, I would absolutely love to visit King Tut's tomb. He is the only king who was left to rest where he was buried, instead of on display in a museum.


Even now, when a documentary airs covering new discoveries pertaining to ancient Egypt, I make time to watch it. Most recently, Travel Channel aired a Mysteries at The Museum that analyzed the emerging research and theories pertaining to this civilization. It seems to have reignited that fascination I’ve had since I was a preteen.

Currently, they're questioning the potential that there exists another tomb behind King Tut's burial chamber. They suspect Queen Nefertiti may be buried there, but are extremely hesitant to explore further because it means destroying priceless art. To this day, no one knows for sure where she is buried but we do know she is related to King Tut.

In fact, they are also researching the possibility that since King Tut died so young and so unexpectedly, his funerary goods were not originally meant for him. One theory is that King Tut's funerary mask was originally meant for a woman, since you can see discs in the ears to fill in holes. Only women in Ancient Egypt would have pierced ears.

Another detail that is argued, pertains to the face on the funerary mask. There is a seam visible, and it is theorized that King Tut's face replaced the original recipient's. 

There are also smaller statues reportedly of King Tut that were found in his tomb, but they seemingly portray the silhouette of a woman. These clues, of course, are three of many that are being studied as scholars try to uncover the meaning behind this ancient civilization's stories.

So much of what I thought I knew of Ancient Egypt has changed. I suppose that is what happens to history as time evolves and further discoveries are made.

But it's a story I want to continue to listen to.

The Ice Castles - Stillwater, MN

#icecastles

Dear Diary,
Love it or loathe it, winter is something we all must contend with in the upper Midwest. (And obviously other regions but I can mostly speak for the one I call home.)

Personally, I loathe it. I am a "warm-weather-and-sunshine" kind of girl, and I could totally decorate palm trees for Christmas instead of pine. A life in Minnesota found us however, and as much as I complain about the cold, this state beautifully embraces all its seasons.



I decided to follow suit, for better or worse.

One cold January weekend day, while Nick was instructing, I bundled the kids in their "marshmallow" gear and drove up to Stillwater. We were going to check out and explore the Ice Castles.








It was as though we were cast in a real-life depiction of Frozen, and the song "Let It Go" was stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

Speaking of Frozen ...




If you go: 
Purchase tickets online. This schedules a 30-minute window for you to arrive, but you can stay as long as you wish. They recommend bringing a sled instead of a stroller, and cameras are allowed (leave tripods and lights behind). 

Dress like you're going sledding! Boots, snow pants, hats and gloves are a must.

Location:
Ice Castles at Lowell Park
201 Water Street N, Stillwater 55082

Web site:
http://icecastles.com/stillwater/



 Sliding down the ice chute ...

Bourbon Butcher - Farmington, MN

Dear Diary,

Nick and I don't go out on day dates often, but when we do, we check out new bars in town.

(Nick sampled a Maker's Mark while I had a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.)


(I snapped this for no real reason other than I liked the light fixture.)

Recently opened, I really liked the ambiance of the place. There was a cool pallet wall and exposed brick. I admired the light fixtures, and the bar was definitely a showstopper. There was a large booth that could be curtained off for privacy, and a Throwback Arcade with a cozy fireplace, skeeball (!!!), pinball machines and shuffleboard. It's a cool hangout place.

The drink menu is extensive, and there is a basic food menu of expected bar foods. We were impressed the kitchen has gluten free buns. We shared a plate, and the food was delicious.

While there were families with children there during the day to eat, I wouldn't describe it as such. It certainly shines brighter as the setting for a Happy Hour, a meet-up with friends or the first stop for Bachelor and Bachelorette festivities. It is more of an adult playground, and hopefully Nick and I can return in the evening.

They offer drink flights - beer of course, but they also offer whiskey and wine flights. We were curious about Beer and a Bump, which is essentially a well-stocked beer and bourbon flight. We both agreed that a few of our good friends needed to experience it.

The staff was friendly, and I really hope Bourbon Butcher is here to stay.

(From The Bourbon Butcher's Facebook Page)

Location:
20700 Chippendale Avenue

Web site:
bourbonbutcher.com

House Update: The Light at The End of The Tunnel

Dear Renovation Diary,
 
I’ve joked, I’ve teased and I’ve labeled our home such things as “The Ugly Split Level.” And the house seems to play along with my odd sense of humor. 
 
It seems in Minnesota, Split Level homes are a dime a dozen. They’re the suburban staple it seems – just like Milwaukee seems to favor the Rambler-style home. The layout is awkward, but especially ours with its three levels. The kitchen, garage and dinette are on the ground level. Our staircase to the upper level is definitely a focal point, and the main living space is open. The fact that I can be in the kitchen while the kids are playing in the loft, or coloring at the table, or eating a snack at the counter makes the home feel very family-oriented. It was a major selling point for us.
 
I owe a debt of gratitude to the house. 
 
It’s not “ugly,” it has character. It established our foundation in our neighborhood, the kids’ school district and their activities, and our friendships. The backyard supported many a neighborhood pick-up lacrosse game, many a summer bonfire, and many more a dinner al fresco on our patio.
 

It was the first address we resided that gave the kids their own rooms.
 
It taught us how to stand on our two feet, how to budget properly and responsibly, and how to be completely reliant on ourselves. With the exception of a phone call to a relative for advice, there was no landlord to swoop in and take over. Owning a home can be stressful and expensive, but a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment comes with it. The give-and-take relationship we’ve had with our house has been very rewarding.


The house has good bones. Built in 1992, the only updates we’ve had to do on the place were cosmetic. Personal taste is not a reflection of fault or flaw, just a fact. The kitchen is functional. The open floor plan promotes a sense of togetherness. The limited space for storage does keep our material possessions in check. And though we’ve recognized the need for a guest suite and a formal office, our first home has served us very, very well.
 
We purchased the home as a short sale in 2012 when the housing market in the Twin Cities was at its rock bottom. We managed to secure a low interest rate, and a home for much less than under “normal” circumstances. Over the course of our tenure as home owners, the market has rebounded exponentially and is the only reason why we are preparing to sell. The split level essentially served as a 5-year flip.
 

I’m happy to have added the house as a chapter to our story, and I’m proud our story is a part of this house.

Nerf Gun Wall Storage

Dear Renovation Diary,
 
Landen has taken up quite an interest and amassed a large collection of Nerf guns. In fact, the entire family has gotten involved - we are known for the occasional battle. Those are fun. Tripping over Landen's armory is not. They're kind of awkward and difficult to put away neatly, and the darts and muskets were hard to keep organized. Landen was getting frustrated.

We (Landen) decided to utilize wall space in his walk-in closet for storage. First, Nick installed anchors into the studs to secure a peg board in place.


Then, using hooks, Landen got to work hanging his guns on the peg board.



We also found hanging plastic storage buckets to help corral his darts and balls.



The final result? A simplified way to store a favorite collection, and a solution to help prevent the accessories from getting lost. We have one happy kid!

All of the materials for this project were found at Home Depot, and for the total cost of less than $50. This set-up could also be used to store accessory collections of scarves, jewelry and handbags.

Ancestry DNA, Part I

Dear Diary,

One of humanity’s biggest existential crises is a simple question: who am I?



Woven into your being is the long and fascinating lineage of your ancestry – it can explain the shape of your nose, the color of your hair, even your health and personality traits, like my inherited stubbornness. I was first introduced to the study of genetics in high school, and it left me curious to uncover my own genetic story.

In fact, it was a topic Nick and I often discussed. I knew my grandfather’s grandparents came through Ellis Island from Poland, and my grandmother’s father was 100% Norwegian. My maiden name is Irish, but beyond assumptions amongst my relatives, very little is known about who we are. 

Americans, of course – but also, so much more.

Nick’s last name has German roots, and there has also been discussion of Native American and Dutch ancestry. We were curious enough to become interested in the Ancestry DNA kits to see what the pie chart expressed, especially considering our two children represent a beautiful combination of the both of us.

We each received kits for Christmas.

“Perhaps we shouldn’t drink while we do this,” we joked.


First, we had to register our swabs with the site. Then, we had to collect our samples. For the sake of full disclosure, we had to collect a ¼-teaspoon of our saliva (which, kudos to the lab tech because I would not have the stomach to perform that job!), then secure it shut before mailing it to their lab for testing. Results take approximately 6-8 weeks.

I intend to write about my results, and Nick’s if I have his blessing. I’m also considering the start of an account on Ancestry to further trace our family history, because I’m curious. 

I also want to be able to tell the kids, this is who you are.

How To Not Waste Your PTO

Dear Travel Diary,
 
In 2017, I have 6 weeks of PTO to turn into passport stamps, fun pictures, documented memories and a few check marks on the old Bucket List.
 
I cannot wait.
 
Did you know some people don't use all of their PTO!? I understand that there are many litigating factors that contribute to why, but even a "mental health day" every so often is important.
 
I think I had my 2016 PTO balance satisfied by the end of October.
 
Here's a summary of what we did:










Airports we flew into/from (we're an aviation family): Orange County, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago O'Hare; Newark, NJ; Denver, CO; Seattle, WA; Copenhagen; Billings, MT; Honolulu, and all originating from MSP.

This concludes my 2016 recaps!

Hawaii

Dear Diary,
Let's be adventurous.
Let's show up at the airport without confirmed seats and fly standby halfway across the world with two young kids.

And when people tell us that we're nuts, we're crazy and there's no way, let's just smile.

Let's allow our experiences tell the story.

Like the one that just happened.
On Thursday 12/29, we flew into Orange County and then Uber'ed our way to LAX. We slept at an on-site hotel during a 7-hour layover, then successfully caught a flight across the pond into Honolulu. The kids tolerated the 6-hour flight better than expected, and their reward was a weekend in paradise.


Greeted with a traditional lei and cup of pineapple juice, we were so grateful to thaw our chilled Minnesota skin with the warmth of the Hawaiian sun.

We walked.

We swam in the ocean. I don't think Madelyn left the water for three hours - she loves it so, so much. Meanwhile, when Landen took breaks from the water, he examined coral, built moats in the fine sand and explored natural lagoons.





We ate fish tacos in 80-degree weather by the beach. 

We had no real itinerary - just let Hawaii happen.






(We watched the sun rise and set on the same day.)








Celebrating and counting down to the New Year in the one of the most beautiful settings in the world, with the love of my life and my two babies at my side, surrounded by lit tiki torches and the twinkling stars as waves crashed into the shore - I cannot think of a better way to both close and open new chapters in a life I am so proud to have built with the man I met when I was 18.

Back then, I took a chance on a country boy who attended school 3 hours away.

This past weekend, we took a chance on a standby flight to Hawaii. 

Even with the unknowns, and against all odds, I am so thankful for every chance I have taken.

Because I could not ask for anything more. The biggest takeaway here, is to be scared. Flying standby halfway around the world is scary! Do it anyway.