Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Minnehaha Park

  Way back in July my husband and I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting my dear blogging friend Karen and her  husband from "She Thought She Could So She Did" in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I did a blog post about that wonderful visit HERE, but I always meant to do a travel post about the park once I finished all my full vacation posts...and the day has finally arrived!

We decided to meet in Minnehaha park because we wanted a place where we could have some lunch and walk around and talk.  I had read about this park from another blog and thought it was exactly what we were looking for because it had a restaurant in the park.  Even though I've lived only two hours away from Minneapolis for the past twenty years, I have never heard of this park before.  You can only imagine my surprise in finding out that there is a park in city limits with a gorgeous waterfall!

I wish I had done my research and learned more about this park before suggesting it to Karen, because we ended up having two major challenges:   parking and lack of directions.

I don't know if this park is always this crowded, but we went on a Saturday on a beautiful summer day,  and it was so crowded we couldn't find a parking space.  And worse yet, you had to pay to park your car inside this park.  I have never in my life been to a public park where you had to pay to park your car.  We were totally surprised and unprepared for this.  When we finally found an empty spot, we made the mistake of paying for a full day ($12.00, I think)  because we weren't sure how long we would be there.  I think we ultimately ended up only spending three or four hours there because we got so frustrated with not being able to find the gardens.  More on that later.


Our second frustration was lack of directions.  When we first drove into the park, we had no idea where to go.  There weren't any signs pointing in directions of key park features, so we just drove around hoping to spot a Visitor's Center or the restaurant where we were to meet Karen and her hubby. We couldn't find the Visitor's Center, but we did see the restaurant.  Once we spotted the restaurant we decided to hunt for a empty parking space nearest the restaurant.  When we got out of our car and started walking towards the restaurant we saw a map of the park near a play area but we really wish there was a map we could carry.  I would have loved to have gone to the Visitor Center to get more information but we couldn't find it.  There was one sign, but the way it was placed was so odd, that we never found the Visitor Center until we were leaving the park.  There was also an app you could download, but my phone battery was so low I couldn't use it.  So, getting around the large park was very frustrating.  You can't just drive, because it's so busy and parking is so limited.  You have to grab a parking spot the second you see one or you may not get another chance.  From there, you have to walk.  But the park is huge,  if your not sure where you are going, you could walk miles in the wrong direction.

 I had read that the park had three gardens:  Longfellow Gardens, Minnehaha Falls Pergola Gardens, and Song of Hiawatha Gardens.  We walked forever searching for these gardens, and I'm not sure I found them. I KNOW I never found Longfellow Gardens based on the pictures on this website HERE.   I saw Pergolas, and a few rows of flowers here and there, but I didn't find anything I would describe as a garden. I'm thinking those were the other two gardens.   I really wish I had a map.  Those Longfellow Gardens look so pretty on the web page;  I would have loved to have seen them.

 But, we did find the feature this park is known for:  Minnehaha Falls.  It was kind of hard to miss as it was right next to the restaurant.

This waterfall is really amazing, especially when you consider your in the middle of a large metropolitan city.  The falls are 53 feet tall;   just look at the size of the people standing next to the falls in the picture above.  There are beautiful views and scenic lookouts surrounding the falls from all four sides, above and below the waterfall.

There are also gorgeous gravel path trails that lead you along pretty streams.  I could not believe I could take a scenic woodland walk in the middle of a city;   it was unbelievable!

This is the view from standing above the waterfall looking down at the river below and the scenic bridge.

 After we scoped out the waterfall for a bit Karen texted that they arrived at the park and were at the restaurant, so we walked over there to meet them.

The restaurant, Sea Salt Eatery, served seafood, which all four of us found extremely odd since we were in the northern part of the Midwest.  We also found it strange that they didn't offer french fries even though almost all their dishes were fried.  Whoever heard of fish without the chips?

But other than only serving one type of food and no fries, the food was pretty good.  It has indoor and outdoor seating, but the indoor seating is not a nice restaurant seating, but is very rustic...basically just a pavilion to protect you from the elements if needed.  Most people chose to eat outside.

The restaurant doesn't take reservations, there are no waiters, hostesses or anything like it.  You just stand in a very long line (the line that day wrapped around the end of the building) and place and pay for your order when you get to the register.  Then you find an empty table and wait till they bring your food out to you.  We had to wait quite a bit the day we were there;  it's a good thing we had so much to talk about!

This is the long line of people waiting to order outside the restaurant.

The long line did move very quickly and we did not have any difficulty in finding a table outdoors;  except for the fact that we couldn't get the umbrella up because the pin was missing.  Apparently people steal the pins, according to an employee.  I don't know why anyone would do that, but we had to endure the sun a bit because of it.

The food really was very good and we all really felt we got our money's worth.  Karen got this yummy shrimp plate (I wish I would have ordered this, I love shrimp).

I got fish tacos.  I liked them, but they weren't the best fish tacos I've had.  The problem with fish tacos is that everyone makes them differently.  You never know what your going to get when you order them.  The best fish tacos I ever had were at a little shack of a restaurant in Pensacola Beach, Florida!  Yummy, those were good!  We're hoping to get back to Pensacola this spring, and I am going straight back to that restaurant for more fish tacos!

The boys both ordered fish sandwiches...I think they got the best meal of all.  The fish was so big and flaky and the portions were huge!  If only they would have come with french fries!

My husband found this tiny little fried octopus inside his sandwich.  He wouldn't eat it.  I wanted to try it, but I didn't have the heart.  He's so cute!  I felt so sorry for him!

After lunch we were all ready to walk so we headed back toward the waterfall.  After taking a few pictures, we headed down the staircase to the walking path.

Isn't this stone staircase just beautiful?  Karen and her hubby are in the background.  Karen is wearing an orange dress and her husband is on the right.  I have no idea who that strange woman in green is or why she is staring at me. :)

 After walking a bit, Karen's husband wanted to rest on a bench in the shade.  I decided it was the perfect time to see how warm the water is so Karen and I took off our sandals and enjoyed dipping our feet in this little swimming hole.  How fun that these city kids can enjoy swimming in a real river in the middle of the city.  My kids were fortunate enough to grow up  with a waterhole in their backyard, so they know what it is like to enjoy natural waters.  But city kids usually only get to enjoy public swimming pools, so it's nice that this swimming alternative is available to them.

Karen and her husband had to leave after a few hours to get to their next destination.  My husband and I decided to stay a bit longer to explore the park.  We tried to find the Visitor's Center again, but no such luck.  But we did find this building.  This is the John H. Stevens House.  We didn't go inside because it costs $3.00 to tour.  They charge you for everything in this park.  Another thing I didn't like about it.  I don't like to be nickled and dimed to death when I attend an attraction.  I know $3.00 doesn't seem like much, but when you times it by two or four or five depending on the size of your family and then add the cost of parking, food, and other attraction fees you can easily spend hundreds of dollars before you know it.

This home was the first wood framed house built by the early settler in 1849.  It was relocated to Minnehaha Park in 1896.  The house was moved by an estimated 10,000 children pulling on ropes in relay fashion.  Isn't that fascinating.  Too bad they didn't have YouTube back then...what a great video that would have made!

Well, because we didn't have a map we couldn't find Longfellow Gardens, so I suggested we just go back down the path we previously walked with Karen and her husband and explore a little further past the wading area.  It really was quite pretty with gorgeous, serene river bank views.

My husband loved all the large tree limbs and rock formations.

By now, we were just frustrated.  It was hot and because I was trying to be fashionable, I had the wrong footwear on for exploring.  I wish I had the foresight to bring along a pair of hiking shoes.  Because my feet hurt and I was hot and sweaty we decided to just leave.  I was very disappointed we never found the gardens and I was so frustrated with everything about this park at this point.  It seemed to have a lot to offer, but I couldn't find anything!  We even asked a lot of people walking into the park for directions, and even they didn't seem to know.

So we got back in our car and started to head out, and guess what we found....the Visitor's Center!  The sign was placed in such an odd position that it made it look like the Visitor's Center should have been down the sidewalk when it was actually down a road.  Well, too late now.  We just gave up our $12 parking lot and we were not going to pay again.  Maybe another time.

I feel this was a very negative review of this park;  I don't mean to discourage anyone from going there.   It really is quite a lovely park;  it has amazing playgrounds, hiking trails, gardens, and a children's wading pool.  They just need more signs when you first enter the park and more readable "You are Here" signs throughout the park.  The few we saw were very worn, faded, unreadable, and difficult to understand.  They also need more parking spaces! The Visitor's Center especially should have free thirty minute parking so you can stop and get your bearings and figure out the best place to park your car for what you want to see.

Maybe, hopefully, someday we will go back.  I mean, it's only two hours away.  But I'll tell you this much:  I won't go on a Saturday and I will be sure to download and print my own park map if I can find one! LOL!

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE and Travel Tuesday!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Celebrating My Birthday and Birthday RAKS

Yesterday was my 54th birthday.  Being a Thanksgiving baby, like Christmas babies, my birthday usually gets lost in the holiday so I have learned never to expect much.  The plus side is that family is always around when it's my birthday because they have to's Thanksgiving.  But the birthday celebration itself usually becomes a part of the Thanksgiving feast rather than a separate party.  Although, I did have my "big" birthdays remembered in a special know "Sweet 16", "40", and "50".  

This birthday was a normal one.   My husband had the week off.  Normally we would have taken a vacation but thanks to the "Affordable Health Care Act" (that will hopefully be "Repealed and Replaced" next year) we were surprisingly stuck with thousands of dollars of medical bills and had to cancel two vacations as a result of it.  So in place of a vacation, we went to Chicago for a few days to visit our children and then spent the rest of the week at home with Ashley and Jason (Jordan had to stay behind in Chicago because of work).

We decided to take our kitty to Chicago so that Jordan could spend some time with him;  he hadn't seen him since we brought him home from the shelter.  I was so worried that he wouldn't be able to handle the six hour car drive, but he did surprisingly well.  He spent part of the drive in his little carrier, but most of the trip he spent sitting on my lap.

Below is a picture I posted on Instagram.  The picture on the left is my son-in-law Jason.  We were playing a game of Aggravation and my kitten Jackson was just enamored watching us roll the dice.  The top picture on the right is my son Jordan napping after church.  Jackson jumped on his lap while he was sleeping.  And the bottom right picture is Jackson in his carrier in our car.

Well, by now your probably all wondering what I got for my birthday.

My husband bought me a pair of burgundy booties for my birthday earlier when we were out shopping.  I've shown them to you before HERE.  My daughter got me a fantastic metallic gold handbag and a modern geometric necklace.  I'll show you the bag in a future fashion post, but the necklace is pictured below.

Jackson was so excited to see my present.  He thought the gift was for him!  He loved peeking in the bag and seeing what was inside.  And of course the bag and tissue paper became a toy once the present was removed.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen this picture on Instastories.  This is the necklace my daughter bought me.  I absolutely LOVE it!

Since my birthday was on a work day, we celebrated on a Sunday.  By now all the kids went home, so it was just my husband and I.  We went to church, out to my favorite Mexican restaurant for lunch, shopping, and a movie.  We bought a few Christmas presents for the kids and Jackson, and walked around a store's displays of Christmas trees.  I absolutely loved this flocked country-themed tree.

I've been debating whether or not to even put up Christmas decorations this year with a new kitty in the house.  He gets into everything!  The kids will be so disappointed if I don't, but I seriously don't know if it's worth the trouble.  When I saw this tree, it gave me a little bit of hope.  Perhaps if I use bigger ornaments like this on our tree, Jackson will not be nearly as destructive.

And now for the Birthday RAKS.  "What is a RAK?" some of you non-paper-crafters might ask.  It stands for "Random Acts Of Kindness".  I belong to a on-line paper-crafting community called Splitcoaststampers and one of the nice things they do is send hand-made birthday cards to their members.  This year I was lucky enough to receive four of them.

My first one is a fall-themed birthday card from Annehem715.  I love the fun leaves and the glittered panel.

This unique card stands up and the birthday greeting pops out.  It's from 2Cute Cats.

I absolutely adored this cute birdie card from Anniepanda.

The cute birdie is popped up on dimensionals.

And finally, I love the floral card from Annsforte3.  Isn't it beautiful?

All-in-all it was another wonderful birthday.  My daughter surprised me and left me the most wonderful birthday tribute on Facebook.  I was so shocked, because we as a family do not usually display our affection publicly that way...but it certainly made my day!  Every day I am filled with gratitude over the wonderful little family I have.  I may not have a great, close, extended family, nor a lot of friends, but I have the best nuclear family anyone could ever ask for.

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Monday, November 28, 2016

I Think I Finally Found The Perfect Button-Down Plaid Shirt

I'm smiling so big because out of a lot of trial and error, I think I finally found a button-down plaid shirt I like.  If you read my flannel shirt post HERE, you would know that I've been struggling jumping on the plaid shirt trend for awhile now.  I think I finally gave up ever finding a plaid shirt that worked for me and then I had a JCPenney coupon burning a hole in my pocket.  Off to the store I went, and I spotted this one.  "Hmm, do I or don't I?" I wondered.  I decided the least I could do was try it on.  I was pleasantly surprised with the fit, so my fourth plaid shirt came home with me.

I paired my new plaid shirt with another new purchase, this burgundy Old Navy Textured Frost Free Vest.  I own two other nylon vests, a medium weight white vest last shown HERE and a thin black vest last shown HERE.  This Old Navy puffer vest is probably the "puffiest" vest of the three, but to my surprise, I love it.  I always avoided vests that are too thick because I thought they added unwanted pounds to my frame;  however, I love how cozy and warm it is and because my arms and legs are not covered, it doesn't make me look as big as I thought it would.

I bought a size Large so I could comfortably fit lots of layers under it.  I struggled with choosing between a size Medium and a size Large.  The Medium fit perfectly, but I worried if I added a thick sweater underneath it would be uncomfortable.  I didn't want to get a size Large because I thought it would make me look bigger, but I think ultimately it was the best choice for layering.

I absolutely love the color and fabric of this vest. It's a not a shiny nylon like most puffer vests are.  I can't quite describe it, but it's more of a canvas type of material.

Because my life in winter involves mostly from walking from a heated building to a vehicle, I have the feeling I will be wearing this vest in place of a winter coat for most of the winter.  I get so hot wearing a winter coat inside stores, that this vest is more suitable.  Because of the thickness of the vest and the high collar to protect against wind and cold, I will be perfectly warm wearing it for short periods outside.

I wore suede black booties from Famous Footwear (old) with grey skinny jeans from Target (old).

My infinity scarf was purchased last year from JCP.

And here are a couple of pictures of just the shirt.  It is by Stylus and it is a size medium.  I think the more subtle color and stripes are why I am more comfortable wearing this plaid shirt than others I have tried.

The top is also a little longer in the back than it is in the front...which is always a plus for me!

Stylus Long-Sleeve Oversized Tunic - JCPenney:  HERE, Nicole Miller Kira Satchel (no longer available) similar:  HERE,  Grey Tassel Infinity Scarf (no longer available) similar:  HERE, Grey Skinny Jeans (no longer available) similar:  HERE and HERE, Black Suede Booties (no longer available) similar:  HERE, and Textured Frost Free Vest - Old Navy:  HERE.

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Monday, November 21, 2016

On A Fall Break

I'm taking the week off to enjoy the holiday with my family.  I will return Monday, November 28th!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!  Amy

Sunday, November 20, 2016

My Fall Garden 2016

Many times when I am working in my garden, I am so overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done that I miss the beauty around me.  However, on this day, I don't know what happened, but that wasn't the case.  I was hard at work with fall garden chores and all of a sudden I just noticed how surrounded I was by bright, vibrant color.  I always have my IPhone in the garden with me, so I took a few minutes to just "Stop And Smell The Roses" and take a few pictures.

Trees are always the show offs in the fall.  When designing our garden, I made sure to plant a variety of trees that have different colors of foliage.  One of my favorites is this Autumn Blaze Maple.

This is my main big garden which I just finished cutting down and digging things up.  In the spring I'll lay newspaper down and cover it with wood chips.

I have two blue spruces in this garden, along with a variety of maples some which provide yellow fall foliage and others red.

I was surprised at my retaining wall garden.  It's done blooming for the year, we even had several frosts, yet the foliage on these perennials is so colorful!  Who needs blooms?

Perhaps most surprising of all is the vibrant foliage of my shrubs.  I don't know if it's because of all the rain we got this year, but I don't remember my shrubs ever looking this colorful before.

I love how the hosta leaves, even after being hit by frost, turn this beautiful yellow color!

I've only got one mum planted in my garden.  Mums do not do well in my zone, even the ones that say they are hardy. This mum I bought  at the grocery store during the winter and used  as a houseplant.  When it stopped blooming, I just put it in a sunny window and kept watering it.  When it was warm enough in the spring, I planted it in my garden.  Now I got a second bloom!  I doubt it will survive our cold winter, but I'm sure enjoying it's color now!

Our home is built above a river.  During the summer months you can't see this river for the weeds and brush is too high.  But in the fall and winter we have a beautiful view.

Out of all the shrubs in my garden, this one is my favorite.  I just have no idea what it is.  Everyone that comes to my house asks me, and I can never tell them.  I bought it at Shopko years ago.  It is covered with thorns (the only thing I don't like about it), and it has four seasons of interest.  In the spring it's covered with yellow flowers, in the summer it's a gorgeous green, in the fall it's bright red, and in the winter it is covered with red berries that the birds eat.

This is a view of my yard as seen from the far east side.  Yes, it's all mine.  Now you know why I have no time to craft or cook during the growing season.

I just love how nature mulches my garden for me and covers it with a layer of colorful leaves.

More gorgeous fall foliage on my shrubs.

I love viburnums because they not only have beautiful large flowers that change colors as the seasons go on, but these blooms dry on the shrub and remain there through the winter.  The foliage also turns a beautiful golden yellow.

A view of my large main garden as seen from the house.

If you read any of my fashion posts, you might have seen me take my fashion photos by the magnolia tree on the right center.  In the spring it has the most beautiful white blooms, and in the fall the leaves turn a gorgeous gold.

And finally, if you follow me on Instagram and saw any of my Instagram Stories you may have noticed this post.

I bought this Easter lily at Easter.  When the blooms faded, I placed it in a sunny window indoors.  When it was warm enough, I planted it outside and it is in bloom right now!

Well, that's it from me for gardening posts for the year, as I think my garden is officially done for the season now.  If I do post on Sunday over the winter, it will be a lifestyle or home decor post or a winter garden picture.

Have a Great Day!  Amy