All posts in family
The last two summers have been full of weddings and travel — California, Georgia, Texas, even Hawaii. All the trips made for some great vacations and reunions with friends.
But this, this is the summer of staying close to home. No far-off weddings, no big fancy vacations. Just a lot of camping, gardening and exploring the awesomeness that is summer in Minnesota. So I’ve declared it to be the Prairie Home Summer. Hey Garrison Keillor, if you’re reading this … thanks. I like your show a lot.
To start it off, we had an epic five-year reunion with my college graduating class at St. Olaf. The two-day extravaganza included karaoke at Froggy’s, just like the old days, as well as dinner in the Caf, a reunion with my fellow a cappella group founders from Agnes, a brilliant lecture from a beloved prof, and a slideshow of embarrassing photos that someone pulled from Facebook (a reminder of exactly what we haven’t taken down since we posted them 8 or 9 years ago…)
June looked like a road trip to Rice Lake, Wisconsin for a colleague’s wedding, with a fun cheese shop stop on the way back …
… another road trip to the same part of Wisconsin for a cabin weekend on Spooner Lake with college buddies …
… and a four-day camping and canoeing expedition in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA), one of the most remote and beautiful wilderness parks left in the country.
No biggie. Just one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in the entire world.
1. The obvious … as many farmers market trips and lake walks as possible.
2. At least one pizza farm visit (Stockholm or Northfield … choices this year, yo!)
3. Canning, jamming and pie-ing from the garden.
4. A visit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in Walnut Grove, MN, where you can see the place where they made their sod house on the banks of Plum Creek (ever since I read about it a few weeks ago, I’ve been certifiably obsessed).
5. Significant landscaping and garden improvements (underway).
6. Reading in the hammock and the rocking chair, and not just a few times. A lot.
7. My first trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota, for a friend’s wedding.
8. Mini-golf at the Walker Sculpture Garden.
9. At least two golf outings and two waterskiing days.
10. Biking around the Chain of Lakes — Harriet, Calhoun and Isles (I’ve only biked two at a time, not all three at once).
11. Check out a few more local Mpls breweries and new restaurants.
12. Lots and lots of DQ Blizzards (have I mentioned there’s a DQ three blocks from my house?)
13. The Minnesota State Fair! There are 46 new foods this year … yes, really.
14. Camping in Detroit Lakes, MN (for a friend’s wedding … yes, really.)
15. My first trip to the Wisconsin Dells (for another friend’s birthday).
16. A family reunion out at Lake Minnetonka, including waterskiing, speedboating, dock-sitting, fishing and a dinner cruise from Al & Alma’s.
17. My first-ever concert at the famed First Avenue concert club in Mpls.
My parents are coming for a nice long visit this month, so they’ll be helping me check a few items off this list 🙂 And I’m taking about half of July off from work, which will be love-ly.
What’s on your summer to-do list? And who’s coming to MN to help me with mine?
I spent New Year’s weekend hanging out in my childhood neighborhood, and I was feeling nostalgic so here are a few of my favorite away-from-the-house moments from the last twelve months.
Had a house-full of people around this weekend, with our former exchange student Lisa visiting from Germany with her boyfriend Jochen 🙂 So much fun showing them around town, picnicking at the Pizza Farm in Wisconsin, and waterskiing at the lake.
After they left on Saturday, mom and Sarah and I spent a relaxing day here helping Sarah transition from her summer in Panama to her new job/life coming up in Oregon. One of the highlights was a new recipe we found in Real Simple. We made a substitution of Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains (a blend of orzo, couscous, quinoa and others) in place of the quinoa below, but you could also use farro if that’s what you have handy. You’ll notice the recipe calls for pesto, so I’m also including my personal pesto how-to guide for delicious homemade pesto. Enjoy!
- Cook the quinoa/grains according to the package instructions.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potatoes, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and cook, covered, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes begin to brown and soften, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Add the onion to the pot and cook, tossing occasionally, until the sweet potatoes and onion are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add as much kale to the pot as will fit and cook, tossing frequently and adding more kale when there is room, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Serve the vegetables over the quinoa/grains, topped with 1-2 T pesto and some toasted walnuts.
We made it a kitchen-themed shower, and everyone brought recipes on cards that we had printed to match the invitations.
Financial benefits of homeownership aside (and they do exist, as expensive as home maintenance is)… what I really dreamed of was my entire family gathering for holidays here in Minnesota. In early December of last year, my brother found out he’d been accepted Early Decision at the same college that my sister, mom and I attended. Twenty-eight years after my parents left Minnesota for their new life in Texas, we realized that all three kids would soon be in Minnesota the majority of the year. And even an English major can do the math: flying three kids to Cali is more expensive than flying two parents to Minnesota – especially if the parents have a free place to stay.
Life has a funny way of working out, doesn’t it? I ended up finding a great house (obviously) and my parents came home to Minne for their first Thanksgiving here since 1982. All of this is a long way of saying that, when I arrived home after work on the day before Thanksgiving, I was so excited to see this scene in my living room: