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The Ice Castles - Stillwater, MN


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.

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

Web site:

 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)

20700 Chippendale Avenue

Web site:

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.


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.