right now

right now

Jan 6, 2011

Christmas in Minnesota - Part One!

Bear with me, there's LOTS of photos!  I always feel the need to post them all since we live so far from family.  An extra reason this year is that one of my brothers is still in Afghanistan and I know he will appreciate them.

The first half of our vacation we spent in my home state of Minnesota (oops, that's 15 mins over the border in WI now... I'll never be okay with my parents being cheeseheads now that they moved to town!).  I'm from Southeastern MN, where the farmland is rolling hills and grew up near the river bluffs of the Mississippi.  We are about an hour southeast of the Twin Cities of Mpls/St. Paul.  Heaven, if you ask me!

When I see these, I feel most at home.  Pardon me while I subject you to blurry barns taken while driving at sunrise!  They are among my favorite subjects for photos but we were in a hurry and couldn't stop driving so they were taken from a moving car!  Here's an idea of exactly what my part of the state looks like: 

Someday, I hope to be able to have enough time and the right equipment and knowledge to do these farms justice, I just love them.

Arriving at my parents' house, my kids were relieved to see one undecorated tree waiting for them!  (I didn't do a tree since we were leaving VA!)

Hubby promptly got to work shoveling my mom & dad's deck.  Mom might be horrified if y'all thought she asked him to do that, so I'll tell you that I suggested it and he jumped at the chance!  He would much rather be doing "real work" outdoors on dry land than at sea!

Hubby putting his new boots into action, he loved the ones I picked out, thankfully!

Finn and Loch got their wish of being able to do a Gingerbread House, even if it was a kit!  Mom and I kind of gave each other that look when Loch said he wanted to "bake" one... HA!  But I totally respect the heck out of you moms that have the patience for that!

Loch found the bag Santa had dropped into the backyard.... he took issue with the gas fireplace and wasn't fooled for a minute that Santa would use a "fake" fireplace!  The kid is a wood snob already...

Daddy and Finn dug a fantastic snow cave in my parents' yard... it was about 4x4 feet!

My adorable niece!

I really liked what showed up in this photo, it was by accident since I was only going for a shot of the snow.  Taken from my mom's front window, you can see the Welcome Home sign for hubby in the front yard along with her Blue Star flag in the window for my brother in Afghanistan and the candle in the window for their safe return.  I think the candle thing was unintentional, but it made for a great photo!

Who remembers my obsession with Cheese Curds?  I went down to the local Creamery (yep, the actual creamery has a shop!) on Christmas Eve Day and was pleased to see that not only were they open, I had to park way up the street in this tiny town and walk in... what a crowd!  Lots of people picking up fresh curds for parties and gifts.  Lots of people were back in their hometown for the holidays and it wouldn't be the same without curd from the proclaimed "Cheese Curd Capital of the World"!

Fresh curds come out at 11 am sharp daily still warm and squeaky!

Established in 1910... here it is:

This is my youngest brother... all I have to say is "really"?  LOL....

 This photo made me laugh since I remember my parents tsk-tsking the commercialism and piles of presents under some trees when I was little.... HA!  Look what happens when you become a grandparent - you need to trim the branches several feet up I think to fit all that stuff under there!

My niece with the blankie I knitted for her

And here she is again... if you listen you can hear her exclaim "perfect!" when she opens the gift from her grandparents - her current obsession is horses :)

My dogs can sleep anywhere!

 Gosh it's hard to tell that Sprocket is a dog in every photo I take of her!  She is one strange speckled specimen.  Here she has her knitted neckwarmer and new stuffed loon she got for Christmas :)

These are most of the usual suspects on my dad's side on Christmas, my brothers and cousin are missing, I guess I am too - I was taking the photo!  Mom's on the left in the green shirt, dad's on the far right in the fleece vest.

Random but very cool... near my parents' house, there is a guy that taps into the artesian wells on his property at Christmas and then spotlights them.  You have to drive way out into the sticks, then you round a bend on a gravel road and WOW!  This covers about 2-3 acres, I was only able to get this much from my angle.

Plenty of snow for our nightly walks-  it was up to my waist!

I just love icicles, as long as it's not my house LOL!  This is my brother's house.  They bought a wonderful bungalow in Saint Paul.  They owned a smaller one in Saint Paul and then upgraded to a bit bigger since I'm going to be an aunt again soon, yay!  This one has much of the work already done and it is just a fantastic example of the beautiful old homes that are available in old cities.  Sadly, Virginia Beach didn't even exist til the 60s pretty much so there is no "architecture" to speak of.

I was in soup heaven all through vacation.  Dinner at my brother and wife's house included delicious soup and homemade bread.  It was very yummy and my brother is a pretty good cook, who knew?

Nothing matches the beauty and coziness of an older home during the holidays.  It helps that they don't do tv or have electronic devices all over the place, their home is so welcoming.  I probably looked like a child wanting a puppy while we were getting the grand tour!

A "real" kitchen!  I fell in love with this, it had a great farmhouse feel, and they have red countertops which were fantastic.

And who wouldn't drool over this?  This is the pass-through from the dining room to the kitchen, a lovely walk thru pantry with built ins and glass cabinets.

 Upstairs, I was in love with my niece's bedroom - what little girl wouldn't want this?

Complete with a nook under the eaves for playing, and built-ins.... oh, this place is lovely, and I think they will be very happy there.

Finally, the first part of our vacation ended with a great shot of the cousins.  This is it, as my brother and myself are the only ones on mine or hubby's side with kids right now. They boys think she is the greatest thing ever and I can tell they are going to be looking out for her when they get older!

And oh yeah...that's Marley & Sprocket's cousin - "Sonny"  :)

Part Two to come soon, that's the part where we left family behind and headed "north-er" to have our first vacation that didn't involve the rest of my family.  I felt bad about cutting our time short with them, but we really needed to have some self-planned time with the kids and the outdoors.  If you are military you know what I'm talking about, every vacation is a whirlwind of driving and staying in your parents' house all the time and we rarely get to just go somewhere "for the heck of it" because it means using up your leave time and sacrificing family time. Luckily, my parents were a military couple too so they understand.  We just decided to combine the two, and it turned out great!


  1. That sure was alot of back breaking snow on the deck! Your family is fun like ours! Dog and sled would totally go over here!

    I had to wipe the drool over your brothers kitchen too. How farmishly romantic!

    Your neck of the home woods looks so wonderful! It's no wonder you love it so!

  2. You got me with the snow cave and cheese curds, I am all sniffly and longing for the Wisconsin of my youth. Two things I miss most about that state- LOTS of snow and cheese curds.

    Once I gather myself I will go on reading. ;)

  3. Okay, I am back. LOVE your brothers house too, so warm and cozy...and fantastic architecture. I would have been drooling on the tour, no doubt!

  4. Gosh, you actually left all that lovely comfort (and snow!) for part of your vacation! Tell your brother and SIL I could move into their house tomorrow. And that kitchen range! I'd take that if I had to pull it on a sled all the way back up north here. So much fun to see that area of the state . . . so different, eh? I have an attraction for those farm scenes. Probably from growing up in Illinois.

  5. There's more snow in MN than here! Looks like I may have to move there if I want my snow. Great pictures.

  6. APG, what's funny is that my mom & I were standing inside the window all warm and snug sipping coffee and watching him LOL

    Kelly, I used to think I wanted a mid century modern home someday, but the more I go into these older homes, they more I find I have "flipped"! I grew up in a farmhouse so I guess the modern thing was just a phase for me and I have come full circle again!

    Mama Pea, I just LOVED that kitchen, and the fact that it had more than one window too!

    To all, my brother will really appreciate all your compliments on the house, they love these old bungalows and do most of the work themselves, they really do pour their hearts into their home!

  7. Sparkless, that is so crazy that you don't have much snow up there! What is normal for your area?

  8. What a wonderful holiday you had! And such a wonderful family (including y'all) to spend it with. I absolutely LOVE your brother and sil's house. What I wouldn't give for that kitchen! Can't wait to see Part 2!!!

  9. Looks like you all had a blast! Warm and fuzzy filled memories.
    And Happy Birthday little man!
    Erin ~ Don't wear yourself out trying to catch up, enjoy your family. We are all patient.
    But boy I sure would love a walk-thru like that in my kitchen! And red counter tops to boot.
    Take it easy!

  10. Looks wonderful! The "snow cave" actually has a technical term, a quinzee. Just thought you'd like to know! And I love cheese curds too! Dan got me into them. We have a little family run dairy/creamery out here that makes fresh cheese curds Friday evenings and I buy them at the farmer's market Saturday morning. Kind of pricey, but so worth it.

  11. It looks like you guys had a great time with your family. All that snow, wow...
    I totally understand about your guys wanting a family vacation. We got married in 89 (hubby was in the military) and until 2003 every one of our vacations was spent visiting family. We either drove to OK to see the in-laws or flew to Germany to visit my family. We had a few vacations all by ourselves while we were stationed in Germany, but now since we are back in the States (and my husband is retired) we're back to visiting family...

  12. What a great post! I didn't realize you had gotten Nora opening her horse on camera--too cute. Thank you Erin (and everybody) for all your nice comments on our new house, we love it here. We really enjoyed our visit with you guys!

  13. Oh Erin, what an awesome time it looks like you all had at home. I love the horse toy your niece received! Too cute. Your brother's house is gorgeous. I love the old world charm of older homes. And his kitchen is just lovely, especially the built in cabinets and stove! Glad you all had a great time. PS, cheese curds ARE amazing!

  14. Being a southerner who's lived in VA all her life, I've often wondered what the attraction was for living up in snow country. Your wonderful posts have made it very clear why people love it so. It truly is beautiful and the farm scenes look so peaceful!

    Glad you've had a great time with family (that's what life is all about anyway!) and are getting a little private time, too. Enjoy. Looking forward to Part 2!!

  15. Thanks all!

    Everyone meet my sis-in-law Sarah, the post of her house must have dragged her out of "lurker" status LOL! Sarah, I'll email you that video so you have a copy!

    SandyG, welcome! VA definitely has its attributes, but I can't deny that I'm a northern girl at heart. I'm particularly fond of the western side of the state of VA, the mountains of course, although then again the seafood out my way is a bonus, too!

  16. Looks absolutely fantastic! What a great time. And what beautiful country you are from.

  17. Looks like you had a great time while you were home. I wish we could have met up! Let's plan on it next time.