The Spirit Of The Holidays

Ho ho holidays. It’s that time again. Remember when you were a child, and the holidays seemed to be all about gifts and the magic of what could be inside those neatly wrapped packages? Heaven forbid it was a sweater.

I remember one Christmas when my sister was young. Grandma Ambers gave her a gift to open; she was probably about four years old. My sister, eyes glistening, tore into the package like her entire magical future might be hiding inside of it. Opening the lid she peered into the magical box and I watched as the excitement faded from her eyes. She pulled out a sweater that my grandmother thought to be, “just darling.” Raising the sweater up from the box her response was, “that’s not a very nice present.” I’m pretty sure I lost myself in uncontrollable laughter.

Children don’t always understand what the holidays are about, and honestly, neither do adults. The holiday season is about love. Every single day should really be about love. This past year I saw more death than I’ve seen in all of my thirty-six years put together. We don’t know how much time we have, and while we receive reminders of that short amount of time, are we really living our lives to the fullest?

I buy gifts for loved ones because I enjoy trying to find something I know they will love receiving, but in all honesty, what matters, in the end, is that we come together and spend time with the people we care about. We don’t know if our brother- and sister-in-law will be with us next Christmas, or if we’ll have the same home, or if we’ll even live in the same state as one another. What we do know is that we can tell the people we love how much we care and show them through our laughter and communion together.

Instead of worrying about things being perfect (I know you will anyway) go out and enjoy meals together. Drive around looking at holiday lights. Drink homemade hot cocoa by the fireside while playing a game. Go Christmas Caroling (that’s a dying pass-time that should be resurrected). Go sledding and build a snowman. Put down your phone. I repeat, put down your phone. People are getting tendonitis from overuse of their phones (I’m one of them). Have a silly photo shoot where you wear holiday gear, antlers, elf hats, etc, and make funny signs to hold up (if need be, use your phone for this). Bake holiday treats together while listening to holiday music. Cook some new recipes and sip wine together (if you’re of age). Heck, go on a wine tasting (but be responsible). Whatever you do, remember it’s about the fun and magic of the season. It’s about being together and that doesn’t have to cost anything.

As we move into the New Year, I am thankful for my life and that I’m still alive. I am thankful for my family and friends who are still here. I am thankful for my cat, Draco. I am thankful that I am following my dream of writing. This is my challenge for you: start living your life to its fullest. Be kind to others. Don’t do the things you hate doing, do more of the things you love. Take care of yourself. You never know if tomorrow will come.

Love to you all and best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season. Now go out and make happy memories! Oh, and if you’re one of those people who loves someone but you haven’t told them, maybe go out and do that as well (the movie, Love Actually, can help you with that).

***Image is from Jolly Holiday Lights by Make A Wish, in Altoona, IA. (check it out if you’re in the area).

http://iowa.wish.org/news-and-events/calendar-of-events/november/event-detail-page

***Also check out Christmas Village in Irvine Park if you’re in the Eau Claire/Chippewa Falls, WI area.

http://www.chippewafalls-wi.gov/your-government/parks-recreation-forestry/irvine-park/christmas-village/about-christmas-village

Fun At The Lumberyard Pub

Last week I wrote an article about Ladies Night at The Historic Afton Inn. To go along with that article I would like to let people know about another of my Ladies Night favorites. This one is a lot of fun and it combines two of my loves; purses and Bingo.

If you like playing Bingo you have got to check out the Lumberyard Pub. The Lumberyard hosts Coach Purse Bingo every third Thursday of the month. To make things even more exciting, each person receives a ticket and a chance to win a free beverage. The atmosphere is fun and definitely has its regular patrons whom you will hear hooting and hollering when they win a prized purse or drink for that matter.

Aside from winning purses and free beverages, the food at the Lumberyard is awesome. They have Wisconsin cheese curds, wings, nachos, sandwiches, salads, and flatbreads, just to name a few items. I haven’t eaten anything that I didn’t love. All of their food is great as well as the service.

Come on out, bring your friends, have some fun. The Lumberyard is a great place to spend an evening.

For more information on the Lumberyard Pub, please visit: http://lumberyardpubafton.com/

Ladies Night At The Historic Afton House Inn

If you live in eastern Minnesota or western Wisconsin and you are looking for something fun to do with your ladies, or maybe even your significant other, come on out to Afton, Minnesota the third Thursday of each month and take part in Ladies Night.

Start your evening off right by checking into, The Historic Afton House Inn. You cannot go wrong with one of their whirlpool suites. Men will feel encouraged to join in if they know all of the excitement and fun involved. This Inn has twenty-one uniquely decorated Jacuzzi suites. Some of the rooms have river views as well as fireplace, and a patio, or balcony. I personally like to use this event for date night because honestly we both have a great time.

After check-in wander through the inn to Current Restaurant for Happy Hour, where you will find great specials on appetizers and drinks. I can personally vouch for the food at Current, it is quite delectable. The low lit room provides a nice ambiance for reconnecting with loved ones, and the service is excellent.

If you are a wine lover, you absolutely must head over to Swirl, which is located inside the inn. They offer a free wine tasting for Ladies Night, but don’t worry men, you won’t be excluded. The tasting consists of a variety of different red and white wines. My favorite by far was the, 2012 Amayna Sauvignon Blanc, which is a nice crisp and refreshing Chilean white wine. Despite having a clear favorite, I greatly enjoyed all of the different wines on the list. Aside from the wine, Swirl has a great atmosphere with wonderfully attentive sommeliers. They also serve food, which I hear, great things about, but have not yet had the pleasure of trying. Rest assured I will be back to visit in the near future and I will do a more in-depth article on this lovely little wine bar.

Other fun things included in this evening are door prizes and games, as well as a variety of sidewalk vendors. You can even take in some free music on the patio outside of Swirl. This month ladies night will take place on July 19th and the giveaway will be for 187ml bottles of Blanc De Bleu.

After you have had your fill of the wonderful Ladies Night activities, you can purchase a bottle of wine to take back to your Jacuzzi suite and enjoy as you soak away any stress from the week. You will sleep well on the comfy beds which feature, My Pillows, and wake feeling refreshed and ready for the inn’s included, hot and tasty breakfast. Breakfast often features: coffee, tea, juice, fruit and yogurt parfait, and some form of egg omelet or frittata.

I have a history of traveling to many different towns and trying out the bed and breakfasts. This particular experience is one of my favorites, because this inn has a certain charm to it and there are so many things to do in one setting. Don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself.

For more information, please visit the following websites:

https://aftonhouseinn.com/

http://www.swirlmywine.com/

Experiencing Villa Bellezza

Summer is here and along with it comes the season for sipping cocktails on patios while relaxing after a long and crazy work week. While many of my friends hold a strong appreciation for breweries, I find myself in a slightly different boat. No matter how hard I try I am just not a beer lover. The closest I come to loving beer is drinking a couple of PBR’s (Wisconsin girl here).

If I am going to test out a beverage nine times out of ten it is going to be wine. Luckily where I live there are a ton of great options nearby. One such location that still has me dreaming about its newest wine is the Villa Bellezza in Pepin, Wisconsin.

This past weekend for my friend’s bachelorette party I met her and the rest of the crew at Villa Bellezza. Upon arriving early I decided to start a wine tasting while I waited. Each tasting is three wines of your choice and one that the winery chooses to give for free. You can taste as many as you want, but each tasting will cost you $5. If you buy four bottles however, one tasting will be free and you will get a 5% discount.

I decided to try two different tastings. I tasted 7 different wines (the free one twice) and I bought two bottles. I should state for the record that I like a vast variety of reds and whites from sweet to dry, so what I like and what someone else likes, may vary, but the majority of our group agreed that the, Terra, which is a fruity, dry red wine, was the option for us all to purchase. We drank quite a bit of this back at our campsite later that evening.

My favorite wine over all of the rest was the Frontenac Reserve which is a dry red wine with a lot of deep oaky black cherry flavor. This particular wine is new this year and it’s selling like hot cakes. I had to have a bottle to take home, and who knows, I will be back in Pepin this weekend and I may just buy another.

Now if you prefer a nice crisp white wine, the Petit Blanc was very tasty. I would definitely recommend checking this wine out. It is dry but has a nice pear flavor that will make for a wonderfully refreshing beverage on the upcoming hot July nights.

Aside from the wine, the service was excellent. Our Sommelier’s name was Christy, and she was very attentive as well as informative. If you struggle with wine choices for your tasting she makes great recommendations.

Villa Bellezza would make a great destination for anyone’s bachelor or bachelorette party, wedding, or special event. This winery is within walking distance of the Pepin Campground, which is nice if you want something more to do than just sit at your campsite. They have a restaurant on location as well, but unfortunately I have not had a chance to try it out as of yet. All I know is that the wine was great and I will definitely be going back for a visit.

For more information on Villa Bellezza, please visit: http://www.villabellezza.com/

Let’s All Go To The Zoo!

Last week while on a mini vacay, my husband and I visited Council Bluffs, Iowa. As we were getting ready to head toward our destination we began looking into the activities available in that area. While there are many fun and historic things to do between Council Bluffs and Omaha, Nebraska, which is just a few minutes away, we decided to check out a zoo.

The Omaha zoo is known as the, Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. This particular zoo has nineteen exhibits and it can take more than one day to take everything in. During our visit we did not go into the aquarium, theater, children’s adventure area, or the butterfly and insect pavilion. There were also a few different areas that were closed due to renovation. I wish I had known ahead of time that things were under construction, because I missed out on seeing a few of my favorite animals.

During our visit, I did not see any penguins, polar bears (they moved to the Kansas City Zoo), or zebras. I have no idea where the zebras were, but they were not in the enclosure they were supposed to be in according to the map. In some cases, due to the construction, it was unclear as to which animals were normally located in which areas. The zoo is currently adding an Asian Highlands section, but it also appears to be changing other areas as well. I believe there was construction going on in three different sections.

We arrived at the zoo around one o’clock and we were there until close, which was at five o’clock. We very much enjoyed walking through the, Desert Dome, as well as the, Kingdoms of the Night. If you want to take everything in, or try to take everything in, I would suggest you arrive at nine in the morning, when the zoo first opens. Make sure you check the times of the different Visitor Experiences that are available. These events are great learning occasions for children.

As you wander around there are plenty of bathrooms, water fountains, and places to find a snack, or to get out of the sun. Several exhibits are indoors. One of the most interesting things I witnessed was that of the giraffe crossing. This must occur at the same time each day, because the giraffes were lined up at the gate and waiting for the staff to come out and let them into their indoor enclosure. This process can take roughly a half an hour. The staff must open fencing to create a walkway and then the giraffes meander on into the building across the walk from their outdoor pen.

I have not been to a zoo in many years. My experiences are mostly with that of the, Como Zoo, in St. Paul, MN, and the Apple Valley Zoo, in Apple Valley, MN. I greatly enjoyed the Omaha Zoo, even though several areas were under construction. I still took tons of photos and saw a lot of interesting animals. I would definitely recommend this zoo to anyone who is visiting the area, especially if you have children who love animals.

For more information on the, Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, please visit: http://www.omahazoo.com/

Updates On St. Croix Casino Hotel, Turtle Lake

Previously I have written a couple of different articles about St. Croix Casino’s hotel at Turtle Lake. This article is an update on the hotel’s current condition and what to expect upon checking in. I am going to be very straight forward and honest in this article, so bear with me.

My husband and I have stayed at this hotel many times over the past six months. We always have a good time. The hotel is clean, and it has an appealing look to it. The rooms are finally finished being updated and I very much like the look of them. The couches and chairs are elegant and have nail head accents on them. The furniture is simple, but nice and I like the colors they chose.

What I am not pleased with is the fact that I walked up to the front desk to check in; there was no one in front of me and three people working behind it, and no one acknowledged me for about five minutes. They just let me stand there while they were messing around with I’m not completely sure what. It looked like spilt change and cell phones.

I don’t have a problem with waiting, but if you aren’t on a phone helping a customer or helping someone who is in front of me, then the courteous thing to do is to acknowledge me, the patron, who has just arrived. There is no excuse for poor service, especially when there are three people available to help.

Aside from the fact that I think the front desk help needs some serious work, this wasn’t the first time this had happened to me, the rest of the actual stay was mostly comfortable and pleasant. The image I used for this article does show that the bed could have been put together a little bit nicer; it looked that way when we checked in. It was however comfortable and I liked the whirlpool, and the various other amenities in the room. One thing I will note is that you can hear people in overhead rooms at times, but they didn’t really bother us. Other than a little light noise, I slept great, and enjoyed myself.

The last thing that I found to be distasteful about this stay was the breakfast. The first time we stayed and partook in the morning breakfast, there was no hot food, but they weren’t completely done with their modifications either. This time they had eggs and sausage, as well as waffles, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, bananas, toast, and cereal. The issue I have is that the eggs were powdered eggs. If you are going to serve breakfast at a hotel that you just took the time to remodel and bring up to a more pleasing standard, then the least you can do is serve actual scrambled eggs.

I truly hope that Turtle Lake realizes that these issues exist and takes the time to quickly remedy them. I won’t stop visiting, but I don’t like reporting such practices to the community either. On a side note, we ate the broiled chicken dinner in the café, at the casino, and that was very good.

For further information on, Turtle Lake Casino, St. Croix, please visit:  https://turtlelake.stcroixcasino.com/

 

What’s Your Passion?

If today were your last day of living, how would you spend it? Would you look back on your life and feel satisfied, or would you wish you had done things differently? If you could do it all over, what would be different?

Let’s face it; everyone makes mistakes, because we are human. The human condition is fragile, and sometimes impulsive, but often repetitive and predictable. People get into patterns and they don’t always know how to get out. Many of us pretend we are happy, when in reality we are day-dreaming about other things we wish we could do, but find impractical.

Impracticality is an illusion. Unless it’s against the law, it isn’t really impractical, is it? If you know what your passion is, you should be out in the world living it. I told myself for years that I couldn’t be a writer, because it was impractical. I needed to be a lawyer, or a doctor, or some sort of secretary in an office. I couldn’t just be a writer, could I? My previous thinking is what stopped me from living a more satisfying life.

The truth is if you love something enough, then you should have the drive to do what it takes to achieve your desired outcome. If you want to be an artist, create art. If you want to be an author, then you have to write. If you want to be an astronaut, then you had better get to it. You shouldn’t let anything stand in the way of what you are genuinely passionate about.

If you have no idea what your passion is and you are floundering around in life, then you should make it your job to find your passion. Life is way too short to be unhappy and stuck. Know yourself inside and out, because you can’t show a lover who you really are, if you have no idea, yourself.

Life is an adventure; one of the biggest and best adventures out there. Live each day to its fullest and remember; only you can change your situation for the better.

For a little help with finding your passion, please check out the following quizzes and articles:

https://www.themuse.com/advice/6-fresh-ways-to-find-your-passion

http://www.oprah.com/supersoulsunday/the-secret-to-finding-your-passion-hint-its-not-what-you-think_1

https://tinybuddha.com/blog/try-this-if-youre-struggling-to-find-your-passion/

http://clarityonfire.com/quiz/

https://idealistcareers.org/career-question-clarity/

https://www.psychologies.co.uk/test-whats-your-true-passion

Adventure is wherever the desire takes us.