Women and Wine

About a month ago, the editor for Rochester Women Magazine asked if I would write an article for the column GoDo! The column is based on getting your friends together, picking an activity and doing it — hence GoDo! This activity was based on wine tasting at three local wineries. I accepted the challenge and when the article comes out in September 2014, I’ll post a link to the Rochester Women website.

Several women who have worked with the magazine in some capacity, were invited to attend. Many of them invited a friend to go along. My partner in crime was unable to make it, but it was probably for the best so I could concentrate.

We met at the Rochester Athletic Club around 3:15. We hopped on the Rochester Trolley and at 3:30, we began our journey.

Rochester, Minnesota Trolley Winery Tour

Rochester Trolley Tours is a great way to travel throughout the area.

The trolley windows were open and a warm breeze flooded the inside. I sat up front, I am always fearful of getting carsick. As a child, car rides and I didn’t mix. I was always drugged up on Dramamine with my neck bobbing as I nodded off. As an adult, I haven’t really experienced carsickness, but I am always in the front seat. I decided not to test the waters today.

Our first stop was Post Town Winery in Rochester, Minnesota. It was a charming little building in an unlikely spot. It was situated in an industrial park, but it didn’t take away from the charm of this little nook.

Post Town Winery, Rochester MN.

Rochester women visit Post Town Winery.

We were given a warm welcome by Bonita Patton, a co-owner. She was elated to have us and was eager to give us the nickel tour. I was surprised to see they age their wine in plastic containers, but I am not a wine aficionado yet, so I kept my mouth closed. She spoke about their future plans to expand into the next room to support a small kitchen so they could serve more food.

After the tour, she led us to the patio and our drinking commenced. Their wine was not my favorite, but Bonita was a lovely women and I tried to stay positive about the experience. After all, my job was to write about going and doing, not whether or not I liked the wine.

Post Town Winery, Rochester MN

Steve Patton, co-owner, pulling a bottle of wine from the shelf.

I jotted down a few notes while the gals laughed talked about the magazine and other ideas for GoDo! We nibbled on crackers, cheese and chocolate for the better part of an hour. But, we were on a pretty tight schedule since we had two other wineries to visit, so we had to shake a leg.

As I stood up to leave there was a sweat mark on my slinky dress, close to my belly button. I could only imagine what my butt looked like at this point. I told myself I would sit on the edge of the seat in the trolley and squeeze my cheeks, then there wouldn’t be a spot for sweat to sit and soak into my dress.

Our next stop was Salem Glen Winery. We were welcomed by a shy, gracious man named Dustin Ebert. He and his father owned the winery. The deck was spacious and overlooked beautiful landscaping and the vineyard. It’s just what you would imagine any winery to look like.

Spacious deck at Salem Glen

Rochester Women gathered on the spacious deck at Salem Glen Winery.

Salem Glen Winery, Rochester MN

The vineyard at Salem Glen Winery.

Salem Glen winery decor

Everything about Salem Glen was beautiful!

Heidi was our sommelier. Her rail thin frame was encased in an aqua blue lace dress with tan cowboy boots. Her voice was soft and kind, but audible. She knew a lot about the wine; how it was aged, the elements of each wine, the finish and what to pair with it.

After the first couple of wines had been delivered she brought out this beautiful plate of sourdough bread with olive oil dipping sauce. There was cheese, olives and fruit. So delicious! And their wines were all very tasty…with the exception of one oaky wine that I hated. I hate oak, a little or a lot, I hate it.

Delicious sourdough bread, infused olive oil and grated parmesean cheese

The olive oil was infused with lemon and lime. Mmmm, delish!

Salem Glen was a place I would like to visit again. They offered seating all year around, for birthday parties, corporate events, mayo clinic related events and lots of others. Dustin was very proud of the winery. The grapes they used in their wine were the cold, hardy grapes that survive the Minnesota winters. He was proud of this because it sets them apart from the other wineries in Minnesota.

Once again, we were a slave to the clock. We hurried back to the trolley and we were on our way to the last winery, Four Daughters Winery. I have been excited to visit this winery for several years. It is on highway 63 about 20 miles south of Rochester.  Adlai and I pass this winery every time we drive to my parent’s home in Missouri.

The structure is urban and contemporary and situated next to the vineyard. As we walked toward the winery, I picked up the pace; I wasn’t sure if I was excited about the wine, which I knew nothing about, or if I was excited to see what the inside looked like.

Four Daughters Winery

An urban, contemporary structure out in the country. BEAUTIFUL!

The inside was reminiscent of the exterior; concrete and steel, though the colors were warm. It was loud inside and they needed something fabric on the walls or floors. It was difficult to converse with the ladies after we sat down.

Four Daughters Winery

Wine storage inside Four Daughters Winery.

At one point, I started whining about the fact that I was almost 40 and a woman asked if I had kids. I said that I had fur kids. She thought I said four kids. I had to say it a couple of times and finally I told her that my husband and I have two cats. I think she got it after that…

I watched and listened as everyone around me drank glass after glass of wine and giggled and chatted with their friends. I enjoyed the conversation, but felt a bit like the outsider. I was the one on assignment, so I had to be keen to my surroundings. Plus, I knew I should refrain from drinking too much, one, because I had to drive home, which was about a 30 minute drive. And, two, I was already exhausted (I over extended myself this month with fitness classes, writing assignments and course work for learning about WordPress) and I had to be ready and awake and in Elba, Minnesota to cover EcoFest the next day.

I was assigned to EcoFest for the St. Charles Press. I had to go early to get pictures and talk to someone in charge before the craziness started; then, I had to go back a few hours later when the festival was in full force. Of course, I had to write about the festival and turn that in on Sunday night. Plus I had to get the women and wine article that I was researching this very moment done by Monday.

We ordered food at Four Daughters when we arrived. They gave us an abbreviated menu choice because there were so many of us. I ordered the lettuce wraps. They were awesome. The chicken filling was similar to teriyaki chicken. It came with a side of cabbage and a teriyaki sauce with sesame seeds and a mayonnaise dipping sauce. My God! It was wonderful!

Lettuce Wraps at 4 Daughters Winery.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps at Four Daughters Winery.

Some of the other selections were a Provolone cheese entrée with bread, Pot Roast Tacos, Sloppy Joe Nachos-they used Kettle Chips! When our food did arrive, many of the gals were sharing food and I again wished my partner in crime (Melissa, my writer friend) could have been along to split something. Although, I am kind of picky, so I may not have liked what she picked.

Dinner was so tasty and so unique. Adlai and I haven’t been going out to dinner very often because we’ve been trying to save money. Our dinners out are usually the time to experiment with fun, new food.

I like to cook, but don’t always have the time. I am hoping someday I will have more time to experiment in the kitchen. I am sure hubby would like that too. For now, I stick to recipes I know.

Before I left the winery, I had the pleasure of talking to the owners of Four Daughters, Vicky and Gary Vogt. I found out that they decided to open the winery as a ploy to get their daughters to move back to the area. Too funny, maybe if my parents opened up a winery, I would move back to Missouri. Just kidding.

Another little tidbit I found out was that Justin Osbourne, one of their sons-in-law was the wine maker. He started out as a contractor building houses. But, when they opened the winery, he started making wine. His wine is award winning! He won the gold medal at a competition in upstate New York. His wine competed against wine makers from all over Europe. Talk about a calling…hoping my writing career takes off like this guy…

All in all this experience was amazing and I am looking forward to writing the column Women and Wine for RW magazine. My next assignment is for the November/December issue and the focus is dessert wine. Stay tuned…

Do you like wine tasting tours?

What are your favorite wines?

King of the Road

Last night was the first time in a month that I have had the time and energy to crank out a 60 minute run. There was a drastic difference between my run last Thursday and last night. I doubt that I was much faster than normal, but every step felt so good. I was only going to run for about 40 minutes, but at the 20 minute mark I was feeling so good I thought maybe I should go for 50 minutes. And, by the time 30 minutes hit, I questioned whether I could go for the gold. I continued through the run and managed to crank out 61:15.

When I arrived home, I watered the outside plants and stretched as I watered. I was so grateful for the energy that I had. I was also grateful that I didn’t have anything urgent I needed to do. Yes, I still have two lessons to finish for my online WordPress class. And yes, I still have my training article to finish for the Wagazine, but it isn’t due until Friday. Plus, I am waiting to hear back from the editor to see if my angle is going to work for this edition. I say this because the editor originally wanted the article to be more about pets in general rather than dogs. However, the contacts she provided were all canine people, so the article morphed into a Fido oriented article.

So, once I finished with my stretching, it was almost time to eat and relax. Adlai already had a pizza in the oven, so, we cleaned up for dinner, I made a salad and we sat and watched an episode of Scandal.

It was a great day and I am thankful that I have had some time to catch my breath. It isn’t much, but I’ll take. My schedule is about to get crazy again.

Stay Strong in all that you do!


Fifth Wedding Anniversary Part III: Harney Peak

I slept in on July 4th. We had been getting up so early the last few days, trying to get through everything on the South Dakota check list. Finally, I decided I needed a break.  Sleeping in was refreshing.

When I managed to crawl out of the tent, Adlai already had a cup of coffee ready for me. We sat in our camp chairs drinking coffee and contemplating the rumbling sky. There were a few soft raindrops that started to fall. We decided to go get a bite to eat at the Mountain Grill before the downfall.

We each ordered a breakfast burrito. Mine was packed with scrambled eggs and cheese and Adlai’s was filled with eggs, sausage and cheese. We asked for the burritos to go. They came tucked in a piece of aluminum foil and included a side of salsa and sour cream. As we walked back to the campsite, we listened to the rumbling in the sky as more raindrops dampened the soil.

Breakfast burrito complete with salsa

Scrambled egg and cheese breakfast burrito.

We sat quietly under the canopy wondering if today was going to be a good day for the bike ride we planned — well sort of planned. We knew we wanted to go on a bike ride, but we didn’t know where. Before I could look up from nibbling on my breakfast burrito, Adlai’s had disappeared. “This isn’t going to be enough,” he said. “Then go order another one,” I retorted. He didn’t respond, he just poured more coffee in our mugs.

Adlai got out the map and we were trying to determine which bike trail we wanted to take. I wanted to get up and go. I wanted something that was going to give me a good workout. I wanted to be worn out. We talked about the bike ride and I threw in Harney Peak. I said, “I really want to hike Harney Peak, so, if you change your mind let me know.” No response.

We looked at the Deerfield bike trail that was about 18.3 miles long. It was north of where we were staying, and that was appealing to us because we spent most of our time in Custer State Park which was south of where we were staying.

We prepared for the day by packing up the cooler and making sure the bread was on board, attached the bikes and left our campsite. The sky was still rumbling and there were a few rain drops rolling down the windshield, but the farther north we traveled, the sky cleared up and the sun warmed our surroundings.

On the way to Deerfield trail, we decided to stop at a place called Pactolo Reservoir. There were boats, tubers, skiers and lots of others enjoying the clear blue water and sunny skies. We snapped a few pictures and got on the road again.

Pactola Reservoir South Dakota

The beautiful Pactola Reservoir in South Dakota.

We kept traveling and soon discovered that the trail heads were not marked very well. According to mapquest we were in the right location, but we couldn’t find the Deerfield trail. After wandering for at least a half an hour, I was getting grouchy again. I am a girl on the go and I love exercise. I wasn’t getting my fill of sweat sessions and I wanted to GET MOVING!

I suggested we stop at the visitor center that was a few miles back. We turned around and went in to talk with the rangers. Apparently, the trail we were looking for was in bad shape. A couple of days prior to our arrival, a man rode his bike on the Deerfield Trail. It took him eight hours to finish the trail and his wife ended up sending out a search party for him.

The man said the trail was in bad condition, there were trees that were downed and covering the trail. He told the rangers he had to pick up his bike and carry it over lots and lots of trees. We were thankful for this information, so we asked if there was a trail that was close so that we could go for a bike ride. The ranger said, “Sure! The Centennial Trail is close and a lot of people really like it.” He told us how to get there.

When we got to the trailhead, we loaded up with sunscreen and put our water bottles on the bikes. We looked around for the trailhead. “I think that’s it,” I said. “No, I think it’s this way,” Adlai responded. So, we went his way. We soon realized that was not the right way, so we went my way and it seemed like the right way to go.

The trail was a single track, dirt trail that I knew I was not going to like and Adlai was going to love. I am not sure what happened from age 25 to age 39, but somewhere along the way I lost my nerve. I used to ride the insane switch backs and steep hills of Colorado and Utah bike trails. It was a rush and I loved every minute of getting the adrenaline pumping. Yes, I wrecked a few times and flew over the handle bars, but it never stopped me. But now, I if a tree root sticks out in the trail, I walk my bike over it.

We weren’t on the Centennial trail for 10 minutes when we came to a four-wheeler trail and another trail that had a sign posted on it…no outlet. We were both confused. There were no arrows, nothing was marked; we had no idea which way to go. So, we took the four-wheeler trail only to make one big loop back to the parking lot.

When we arrived back at the parking lot, we talked to a few people in the lot to determine if they knew where to go. None of us were very sure of ourselves, so we all left and went our separate ways. By then, we were stumped. “What now,” Adlai asked? “I say we hike Harney Peak, please,” I begged. “Alright,” Adlai said.

By now, it was lunch time and we were hungry. When we arrived at Harney Peak, I recognized the area. We had driven through the day before and there was a wedding and the guests were facing the bride and groom and looking out at a lake. It was an amazing place for a wedding. I caught myself saying that I wanted to do that…hmmm, already married…guess I can’t do that.

There were lots and lots of cars and very few places to park. We pulled up next to another SUV and parked the Jeep in a ditch. We grabbed a few things out of the cooler and made sandwiches. Today we had bread! Neither one of us said very much. We were both grouchy and felt like we had wasted much of the day just driving around. By now, we really needed some exercise. I’m not sure we chewed our sandwiches, but they ended up in our bellies. We packed the food back into the cooler, grabbed some water and granola bars and set out to hike Harney Peak, the highest peak in South Dakota at 7,242 feet.

Harney Peak hike!

Getting ready to hike Harney Peak!

The sign said it would take about 4-5 hours, but we were passing those people that took four to five hours with relative ease. We were movin’ at a good pace, stopping every now and then to snap a picture or two. The terrain was steep and snaked around through the Black Hills. Some areas were filled with intense sunshine and others were covered with moss and ferns.

The hike was beautiful, although there were a few places that the earth was washed out and mud was thick. I was wearing tennis shoes and had to hop through the mud in a few spots.

To our surprise it only took us about an hour and 20 minutes to reach the top. And everyone was right! The view was amazing. We could see for miles. The Black Hills were not as majestic as the Rockies, but the land formations were a beautiful sight to see.

Harney Peak!

Where we are and where we’re going. Another photo-op while hiking Harney Peak.

Harney Peak hike.

Photo-op as we hike to Harney Peak.

Harney Peak lookout!

Almost to the top of Harney Peak!

Harney Peak!

We made it to Harney Peak!

While we were at the lookout tower, there was a Native American chanting and tapping a stick on the granite. It was surreal listening to the chant. And the more we listened, the more guttural and aggressive he sounded. We walked down the stairs from the lookout tower and overheard the Indian claim that this mountain should not be named Harney Peak, after General William S. Harney, a commander of the military in the Black Hills area in the late 1870s. He kept talking, but he was headed downhill in front of us, so I couldn’t hear him. When I had an opportunity I looked up Harney Peak. Apparently, this particular general led troops against the Sioux at the Battle of Ash Hollow. The Sioux Indians nicknamed him the “Woman Killer” because he was known to have killed women and children. It’s ironic that his name is now attached to one of the sacred mountains of the Sioux.

A Native American chanting at Harney Peak.

A Native American chanting at Harney Peak.

Our trek down the mountain was just as fast. We made it to the bottom in another hour and 20 minutes.

As we headed back to our campsite to clean up for dinner, I called a few of the local wineries. I wanted to eat dinner and sip wine for our fifth year anniversary. Because it was the fourth, many of the wineries were closing early. And, one of the wineries served only snacks. We really wanted a solid meal, and neither one of us wanted to get ready and drive back to the area we were leaving (Harney Peak area). So, we decided to eat in Rapid City.

We cleaned up back at our campsite and rode in to town. We decided on the Firehouse Brewery. The Brewery was the old Firehouse in Rapid City that was built in 1915. It was a charming brick building with decorative tile ceilings and firehouse décor. The restaurant was packed, but within a half hour we found ourselves looking over the balcony of this historic building.

Firehouse Brewery in Rapid City, South Dakota

We celebrated our anniversary with a wonderful dinner at Firehouse Brewery.

We ordered calamari for an appetizer. I had fried halibut tacos, and Adlai had a burger and fries. Neither one of us ordered a beer from the famous brewery. We both felt a little dehydrated from the long, hot and dry hike up Harney Peak. The dinner was delicious, though. When we finished, we walked around downtown. There were lots of boutiques, spas and other unique restaurants that reminded me a lot of Boulder, Colorado. I had to quiet my mind as we walked. It made me want to move to Rapid City.

After our evening outing, we went back to the campsite and ended our evening with s’mores. We reminisced about all the happy memories we made throughout the day.

Fifth Wedding Anniversary Part II: Mount Rushmore and More

If you recall the Fifth Wedding Anniversary Trip Part I, Adlai and I traveled to South Dakota for five days to celebrate our anniversary. After a good night sleep on our inexpensive Target air mattress, we walked to the Mountain Grill for breakfast. I had an order of scrambled eggs and a biscuit with jelly. Adlai had an order of biscuits smothered in gravy—like-minded eaters we are not. The biscuit was dry and I wished I liked gravy, but I chewed and drank coffee and managed to finish the single biscuit sitting on my plate.

Mountain Grill at Mystery Mountain Resort

Time for breakfast!

We had a lot planned for the day, so we ate quickly and headed back to camp to get ready. When we were dressed for the day, we set out to go and see Mt. Rushmore. This was number one on my list of things to see in South Dakota. I am not sure why, but large, man-made monuments interest me. I suppose it is the sheer magnitude of constructing them. The patience the artist and craftsman possess to accomplish such a feat.

We packed the car with goodies for a picnic and left the campsite. The Mystery Mountain resort was about 15 miles away from Mt. Rushmore. We drove through the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore peeked out from behind trees. “Oh my God, I see it from here,” I cried! I felt like someone just gave me a million dollars. I was elated to see this sculpture. I felt like I was floating through time, was it real? Was I seeing what I thought I was seeing? It played peek-a-boo with me for a few short minutes. I started snapping pictures knowing that I wasn’t going to get a decent shot until we were inside the park.

We pulled up to the entrance. It was like we were paying a toll to cross a stretch of highway. One car after another pulled up and paid and followed the road. It was $11/person to park and it was worth it. The parking garage was reminiscent of any parking structure in any major city.

We found a place to park. I wiggled out of my seat like an antsy kindergartner who needed to use the bathroom. The parking structure looked new and there were public bathrooms that were clean unlike some monuments that I have traveled to. It was a place I was proud to call an American tourist destination. As we walked up the promenade, we passed american flags and tourists doing what they do best. Click, click, click, cameras were going off on all sides of me. A few people stood with a camera up to their faces and scanned that big, beautiful panoramic view with their video cameras.

I joined in on the clicking as Adlai walked ahead. The addiction was back. Wall Drug hadn’t cured my habit. I skipped and caught up to Adlai. When we reached the end, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln greeted us with stoic faces.

Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota

Mt. Rushmore in all its glory!

We asked a few different tourists to take our picture with the sculpture in the background and then set out to walk the short loop in front of Mt. Rushmore. Along the way, there were signs with information about each president. The signs answered questions about which party each president belonged to, if they were formally educated, their career highlights and birth and death dates.

A vacation highlight, Mt. Rushmore.

We made it to Mt. Rushmore.

At the end of the walk there was a museum with information about how the monument was constructed and the different tools used. I learned that the Hall of Records was built behind Lincoln’s head and used as an archive for important documents relating to the Memorial.

We gawked a few more minutes and contemplated more pictures, but we had a busy schedule and decided to walk back to the car. Along the way a few Navy soldiers played a tune on their instruments and vendors sold $5 t-shirts, hats, coffee mugs and bags.

We were back in the car minutes later and on the road again. Adlai was already hungry, so we stopped at Breezy Point picnic area close to Mt. Rushmore. He hauled the large cooler over to the picnic table and we took out our sandwich ingredients. We soon realized that we left the bread for our sandwiches and our paper plates at the campsite. Uh, Oh!

Breezy Point picnic area in South Dakota.

A picnic area on July 3rd, 2014.

I didn’t mind, we also bought beautiful leaf lettuce at the store the day before, so I was fine building a lettuce wrap instead of a traditional sandwich. My hungry husband, who eats like a teenage boy, didn’t share my enthusiasm.

Lunch time...lettuce wraps and chips.

Lunch time…lettuce wraps and chips.

We made our lettuce wraps and were soon greeted by squirrels and chipmunks. We tossed them a few chips. They weren’t shy, they grabbed a chip and nibbled away. Soon, we had a few birds joining us too. They grabbed a snack and hopped away to feed their young ones.

A squirrel joined us for lunch.

A squirrel joined us for lunch.

After lunch, we were packing up the cooler and tossing our trash in the garbage cans. I didn’t see the open can of tomato juice sitting on the newspaper that also served as a plate and I dumped the half-full can of tomato juice all over the table and the bench. I think some even splattered on Adlai’s leg. He tried to be a good sport about it…

He brought over the large container of non-potable water we got from the campsite. He rinsed off the tomato juice as best as he could. We loaded up the car and headed for Crazy Horse.

Crazy Horse was a little disappointing. I say that only because, we paid $11/person to get in and if we wanted to get up close to the monument we had to pay and additional amount to see it. We watched the movie about the man who started Crazy Horse and then walked around the gift shop. Since we weren’t going to see the monument up close and personal we left soon after.

Vacation to see Crazy Horse.

Crazy Horse is supposedly the largest monument in the world, however, it’s not finished.

Back on the road, we took the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park in hopes that we would see buffalo, prairie dogs and antelope. We paid $7 to get inside the park and began our journey.

We hadn’t been driving long when we saw an antelope standing about five or six feet away from the road. I started taking pictures and realized the poor creature was not doing well. He looked emaciated and sick. “Drive on,” I said. “I don’t want to look at the poor thing.”

And we did. The road curved and twisted and we were driving slow. We kept the windows open so if we happened on some wild life, I could snap a picture out the passenger window instead of the bug splattered windshield. The sun was baking us, especially my right arm that was resting on the door frame.

We drove and drove for what seemed like 100 miles and finally, in the distance we could see cars pulling off the road and buffalo were walking away from the road. Once again, like a small child, I screamed, “Oh My God! There are buffalo! Hurry up, they’re leaving.” By the time we reached the buffalo they had disappeared over the hillside. I figured that was going to be my only encounter with the beautiful beasts.

A couple minutes later, we reached a large, open prairie and there were hundreds of prairie dogs scurrying from dirt mound to dirt mound. We even captured a prairie dog husband and wife duo, ok, maybe boyfriend and girlfriend. They looked so happy together, petting each other.

Prairie Dogs in Custer State Park, South Dakota.

A loving couple!

We watched the little varmints for several minutes and continued driving. We had been in the car for a long time and I was getting impatient and needed to get out do something physical. I became grouchy with the cars that were driving to slow. I wanted to get out of the jeep and run along side it as we made our way through the park.

Just when I couldn’t take it any longer, we came down a long hill and in the distance we could see a herd of buffalo basking in the sun. “Oh My God, the buffalo! Stop,” I cried! And we did. I snapped a few pictures and we got back on the road.

Buffalo in Custer State Park, South Dakota.

Look at these beautiful beasts!

We turned and twisted our way through Needles Highway and managed not the scrape the sides of the jeep as we honked our way through some of the narrowest tunnels I have ever seen. We stopped the jeep many times to get out and snap pictures.

Tunnels on Needles Highway!

The tunnels were a tight squeeze!

The Black Hills were amazing, the name given to the land formations was perfect. The granite hills were pointed and straight. It was a place where you felt at one with nature. Mother Nature had done a beautiful job creating this landscape and I was thankful to be able to enjoy it!

The Black Hills 2014.

We loved driving through the Black Hills.

Needles Highway in Custer State Park.

The Black Hills were one of Mother Nature’s finest!

Needles Highway, Custer State Park, South Dakota.

A beautiful day in the Black Hills.

Several stops and pictures later, we drove back to the campsite for a little R&R and dinner. Tonight was veggie burgers, more corn on the cob and extra large marshmallow S’mores!


Mmmm, S’mores!

Adlai and I talked about how fortunate we were to be able to experience such a beautiful place and even questioned what the job outlook was in the area. South Dakota, close to the Black Hills anyway, was a beautiful place and we didn’t want this experience to end.



Danger! Mango & Avocado Salsa Ahead!

Hey everyone! I hope you are having a great Tuesday!

Have I got a recipe for you to try! This healthy salsa is doubled in my household because it’s so doggone good! The tangy citrus juice from the lime and lemon pair well with the sweet, ripe mango. This is great with chips or use as a topping on a white, flaky fish like Tilapia. I have made this recipe several times for a variety of occasions and it’s never disappointing.

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Salsa Recipe

Combine salt, avocado, mango, chopped cilantro, lemon and lime juice, tossing gently. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Let stand 10 minutes and serve with chips.

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: about 3 Tablespoons salsa and six chips)

Calories: 92; Fat 3.1g; Protein 1.9g; Carb 15.8g; Fiber 2.4g; Chol 0mg; Sodium 83mg; Calc 49mg.

I cut this recipe from a magazine years ago and cannot remember which one.

Before I sign off for today, it’s day 2 for the “plank challenge.” Today we are going to hold for one minute, like yesterday, plus we are going to add 20 seconds, for a total of 1 minute and 20 seconds.

To start your one minute, try the Rainbow Plank. If you need to, hold the plank for 10 seconds, then, do the Rainbow Plank for 10 counts. Repeat until the first minute is complete. Today, you are going to add 20 seconds. For this portion, hold in a forearm plank for the last 20 seconds.

Ready. Set. Go!

Stay Strong! Remember, I’m cheering you on!


No More Monday Blues

Anyone have the Monday blues? Not me!

Monday used to be…well…Monday, until I started teaching a fitness class on Monday. It sounds odd, but the Sunday evening blahs soon became, sweet, I get to hang out with a wonderful bunch of ladies who are going to motivate me to accomplish a great workout!

Then, a couple of weeks ago, one of my regular class participants asked if we could do an ab challenge of some kind. I thought it was a super way to amp up the excitement for Monday! I suggested we do a “plank challenge.”

Tonight we are starting our 8 day “plank challenge.” We are starting tonight with a one minute plank—piece of cake—and, we are going to increase the time each day until next Monday, July 21st. On the 21st, we will be planking for 6 minutes!

I don’t think there’s another way to beat the Monday blues. So, without further ado, I present to you…3.2.1. at it’s finest and the “plank challenge” of the week.

Stay Strong gals! If you can’t make it tonight, all you need are heavy and light weights, a mat, water and a stop watch. Make time for yourself today. Give yourself one hour to sweat, you won’t regret it!


  • Frog Squats (by popular demand)
  • Lunge in place right side (lunge position and push up through heels and back down)
  • Lunge in place left side

Cardio: High Knees (good for abs too)/1, 2, 3 Knee

Abs: Quick Burpee pop legs out/bring knees in pop at the top


  • Singles/pulse/out in
  • Hammer/pulse/out in
  • Preacher curl

Cardio: Mountain Climber/Bootie Kicks

Abs: Knee Tuck with Twist (push up position/tuck double knee toward opposite elbow


  • Dips on floor with triangle hand as base
  • Overhead extension
  • Press backs

Cardio: Mummy/Front Kicks

*Abs: Rainbow Plank (lift hips in center and drop to the side/keep pulling toes in if they slip)

Note: The Rainbow Plank is the start to our 8 day “plank challenge.”


  • Chest fly with bridge pose
  • Chest Press with bridge pose
  • Push ups

Cardio: Shuffle side to side/Jump squats

Abs: Pilates Abs


  • Windmill
  • Superman
  • Reverse Fly

Cardio: Single Knee Repeater/Ham Curls

Abs: Stair stepper


  • Hold arms out straight with light weights/circle forward/circle backward
  • W/Vs
  • Front Arm Raise and Side Raise

Cardio: Jumping Jacks/Jump Rope

Abs: Side plank with hip dips

Special thanks to one of our Monday night comrades for sharing a few new ab moves to melt that muffin top!

Has anyone else completed an ab challenge, like the “plank challenge?”


Fun Day Friday!

Hello and Happy Friday!

It has been a crazy week! Between my full-time job, teaching fitness classes, working on my online class for building a WordPress site, a networking meeting for writers and publishers, playing taxi for my husband while his truck has been in the shop and taking photos at the Winona County Fair, I am exhausted. I did manage to squeeze in a quick run last night which felt amazing. The last run I completed was before my trip to South Dakota, so it was well over a week ago.

My favorite event this week was the networking meeting. It was very encouraging and I met a couple of new editors and publishers in the area. I would love to pick up a few more freelance jobs—because my schedule is so open—ha! One woman told me she made more money as a freelance writer than she does working for a local magazine! I am patiently waiting for that time to come!

I know I am way behind on posting workouts so I’ll spare you from anymore excuses…here is a fun 3.2.1. for the weekend! Enjoy!


  1. Walking Lunges


  1. Mummy
  2. Bootie Kicks


  1. Crunches on the stability ball


  1. Wall Squat with Hammer Curl
  2. Raise right knee and Bicep Curl/Raise left knee and bicep curl
  3. Wide Curl


  1. 1/4 Turns
  2. Fast Feet


  1. Stability ball pass


  1. Tricep Dips
  2. Kickbacks
  3. Tricep Push-up on the wall


  1. Suicide Run
  2. High Knee


  1. Side bend on the left side


  1. Push-ups 5 girl push-ups/1 guy push-ups and repeat for a minute
  2. Chest Press
  3. Chest fly


  1. Power Jacks
  2. Tap side to side


  1. Side bend on the right side


  1. Superman on the ball
  2. Runner’s pose with Reverse Fly
  3. Plank Row


  1. Squat with side kick
  2. Front Kicks


  1. Single, Single, Double Reach

Stay Strong! Your body will love you for it!

What has kept you busy this week? What was your favorite activity?


Fifth Wedding Anniversary Part I: The Wall Drug Phenomenon

Good Day to All!

The fourth of July, 2014, was the celebration of my five year wedding anniversary to my husband Adlai. In celebration of this event, we decided to go camping in South Dakota. We chose South Dakota for a couple of reasons, one, I have never been there and I am on a quest to visit all 50 states—I have seven more to go. And two, I love the mountains. And since I used to live in Colorado, I wanted to visit mountainous terrain other than than the Rocky Mountains, plus, South Dakota was relatively close—if you call nine hours by car close.

My handsome hubby and I are starting our trip west.

My handsome hubby and I are starting our trip west.

Co-pilot checking in for duty!

Co-pilot checking in for duty!

We said good bye to our kitties and left on Tuesday evening. We began driving west on I-90, and we were astounded by all the wind farms in western Minnesota. There were literally hundreds and hundreds along the way.

Southwestern Minnesota has hundreds of Wind Farms.

Southwestern Minnesota has hundreds of Wind Farms.

We had predetermined that we would drive to Sioux Falls on Tuesday evening. When we arrived some four hours later, we stayed pretty close to I-90 so we could get on the road early and without a long drive back to the interstate on Wednesday morning. This meant there were not many choices for food and lodging. We found a cheap sleep called Cloud Nine and ate the local Perkins. I have never been a lodging snob. I have traveled alone a few times, and I would stay in hostels. I figured a person doesn’t spend much time in a hotel, it’s mainly for sleep and washing up, as long as the rooms are clean. Don’t get me wrong, I have stayed at some lovely places too when I traveled for business purposes, and it’s AWESOME to have lots of amenities.

We were on the road by 8ish the next morning. The drive in eastern South Dakota isn’t very desirable, but it didn’t bother me. I love road trips and I was entertained by all the signs along the highway for Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota. So, I started snapping photos of all the Wall Drug signs. Now, I could bore you with the ridiculous quantity of Wall Drug signs I took pictures of, but I don’t think you would be as amused unless you were actually making the journey. So, I’ll pick and choose a few for you.

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We were completely entertained by this phenomenon of signage, so, we both decided it was necessary to stop along the way to see what all the hubbub was about. As we discussed what we thought we would find at Wall Drug, we soon saw signs for the Corn Palace. Another phenomenon that sounded intriguing. A palace made from corn. Ok. So we decided to stop there too.

Almost there!

Almost there!

We made it to the Corn Palace.

We made it to the Corn Palace.

Corn Art!

Corn Art!

We weren’t in a hurry to get to our campsite because we started early in the morning and had about 5 hours to go. So, all the little stops along the way were a much needed break from the long, mostly straight and flat road we were driving on. When we arrived at the Corn Palace, it was a little misleading. And by a little misleading, I actually mean a lot misleading. The Corn Palace was a normal building with large corn murals on the outside. When we walked inside it was similar to a fair minus the dirt floor. It’s like people had a set up shop for a week or so to sell little trinkets to make enough money to buy food and to make it to the next town to sell their goodies. All the display shelves were standing on a basketball court. It was a corn product gift shop during the day and basketball court by night…hmmmm. Not impressed. We weren’t there any longer than 20 minutes and we hit the open road. Again, shooting pictures of Wall Drug signs. I hope Wall Drug had a cure for this photo snapping disease.

One more. I couldn't resist.

One more. I couldn’t resist.

We finally arrived at Wall Drug around lunch time. We ate at the cafe and then took a look around. The aroma from the cafe was intoxicating. It was the smell of a sweet bakery. Taking a closer look we saw doughnuts. Lots and lots of doughnuts. Apparently that was a Wall Drug specialty. Unfortunately, I don’t care for doughnuts, plus I needed more substance than a sugary delight.


We stood in line and ordered at the register and took our receipt with order number to a table where there were large paintings of cowboys, Indians and important female figures. We ate in silence. We didn’t get the “super size” version of breakfast at McDonald’s that morning and both of us were hungry. I ate a veggie burger and a salad with blue cheese, yum! And Adlai had a buffalo burger and french fries. He didn’t share one fry with me. I was kind of sad. There I was sitting french fryless waiting for him to offer, but he didn’t.

I silently forgave him for not sharing his fries and we started our tour of all the shops at Wall Drug. We started in the store next to the cafe. There were tons of tchotchkes ranging from shot glasses to t-shirts to jackalopes and jewelry. There was such an array of goodies, but none really seemed like something we should spend our money on. Instead we found two good looking townies for a photo-op.

Adlai's new friend.

Adlai’s new friend.


Nicole's new friend!

Nicole’s new friend!

We shopped around a bit more, but didn’t buy a thing. So we decided to continue west on I-90. We only had a about an hour left in the car and we wanted to get to Rapid City to buy groceries and get our campsite set up.

We picked up some chicken and veggie burgers, corn, lunch meat, lettuce, mustard and bread for for sandwiches and cherries and applesauce to get our daily intake of fruit. We rolled in to Mystery Mountain Resort around 2ish and began setting up camp. First, we set up the tent, then blew up the air mattress and got the canopy set up in case of rain.

Our home away from home!

Our home away from home!

Nicole at camp

We finally made it!

We walked around the campgrounds and located the bathrooms and showers. It was clean and well kept and I was thankful for that. They also had a pool, a hot tub and a small visitor center with maps, water, food and a few camping supplies.

The main office at Mystery Mountain Resort.

The main office at Mystery Mountain Resort.

The Mountain Grill offered breakfast burritos, scrambled eggs, pancakes and biscuits.

The Mountain Grill offered breakfast burritos, scrambled eggs, pancakes and biscuits.

A little touch of home.

A little touch of home.

That evening we cooked chicken on the tripod grill over an open fire. We had corn on the cob as a side dish. The corn was sweet and delish! We finished off the evening with S’mores! Overall it was a fun day, but we were tired and needed to rejuvenate for day two, so, we crawled into our tent to catch a few hours of sleep.

Have you been on any roadtrips lately?

What are your thoughts about traveling by car? Would you rather fly?

Make it a great day!







Another Creative Outlet

Good Day to All!

In an effort to appease the many aspects of my creative side, my friend Denise and I went to Canvas and Chardonnay in Rochester last Sunday to paint a love-themed painting and drink a little wine. Denise is a lovely woman, and we reside in the same community. She recently opened up a yoga studio and has had great success. Although I have only been to one of her classes, due to schedule conflicts, I love what she is doing for our community.

She teaches yoga to people of all ages, children, adults and seniors.  And, in late June she hosted a customer appreciation night for members of the community. The event was a timed, closed 30 minute yoga session. And by closed I mean, I was covering the event for the local newspaper and I showed up at 6:15 instead of 6 p.m. and the door was locked. There was a sign that read, yoga in session, please return at 6:30.

I thought it was wonderful that she cared enough about these women, who attended the event, to ensure they were getting a night of relaxation and enjoyment. It was the perfect event. Not only did she offer yoga, but she invited two lovely gals from a local spa to come and provide mini-facials. I so wanted to be a part of all this pampering…sigh. But alas, I took out my notebook and jotted down a few notes and quotes from ladies who attended.

I did mill around the snack tray and boy did I enjoy some of the best blueberry cheese that I have ever tasted. I thought to myself that the wine being served would have been excellent with the offering of cheese, crackers and raspberries. I later found out the cheese was from Hy-Vee—I must go buy some soon.

While the ladies waited for their mini-facials, there was a woman from Camy Couture, a boutique in Rochester, who had a rack of clothing, jewelry, wallets and other trinkets. She was helping women accessorize some of the clothing and chatting with them about her store in Rochester. The owner of Simple Soaps was also there. She had homemade goat’s milk soap for sale. Denise also sells Prana yoga apparel at her studio, so that was available also.

Kim Shea, owner of Camy Couture, set up shop at Denise's free yoga event!

Kim Shea, owner of Camy Couture, set up shop at Denise’s free yoga event!

This post may seem like like I got a little side tracked, but I wanted to provide background on  Denise and her yoga studio, because at this free yoga event, I proposed doing some art classes in the space adjacent to her yoga studio. I proposed a kid’s art project and something similar to Canvas and Chardonnay for adults. She was thrilled with the idea, which made me excited too.

In the excitement, she thought it would be a good idea for us to attend a painting session at Canvas and Chardonnay so that we could see how it was organized. So we did.

I arrived first last Sunday evening and saved us seats next to each other. I ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio and filled my paper plate or paint palette with the allotted paint colors. There was a shelf with the 4 colors needed to complete the painting. The art teacher at Canvas and Chardonnay had it measured out for everyone, four pumps of Burnt Sienna, two pumps of black, 3 pumps of red and 4 pumps of white. I went back to my seat and put my apron on. They had two brushes laid out for us, and a mason jar full of water and one napkin to dry our brushes.

A clean slate.

When I was settled in, Denise and her daughter arrived. They each organized their palette and we waited for class to start. There wasn’t much time for chit chat, but we commented on a few of the paintings hanging on the wall and talked about which paintings we liked and which paintings would be easy to teach.

About that time, the teacher, CiCi, introduced herself. She was bubbly and happy. She had on a beautiful, long cobalt blue dress. She had a darling headband on that gave her that bohemian flair. She was the perfect instructor. She talked about not judging your work and loosening up and being free, especially when painting the background.

CiCi started showing and demonstrating how to lay the background on the canvas using the larger brush. The strokes were free, yet had crosshatching action. The edges of the painting we used the Burnt Sienna and a smidge of black if we wanted it a little darker. Then, as we moved toward the middle of the paper, we used more white to give the illusion of a setting sun on the horizon.

We started with the Burnt Sienna and moved to the reddish maroon hills.

We started with the Burnt Sienna and moved to the reddish maroon hills.

Once the background was painted, we all had an opportunity to wash out our brushes at the sink and refill the water in the mason jar. It was kind of a mini intermission. Then, we painted the lower portion of the background. It was a hillside. The hillside was red with touches of black to create a shadowy maroon color.

Next was the tree. We used our smaller round brush for this task. We started by painting the long, main limbs and then adding curly cues to the main branches. We added girth to the trunk and then painted the two birds sitting on the branch. CiCi instructed us to make upside down tear drops for the body, small circles for the head and triangles for the tail. Then we wrote “love” up in the corner of the painting.

Now we add the subject of the painting.

Now we add the subject of the painting.

The final step was to add small hearts to all the branches of the tree. This was simple. She instructed us to make a “V” shape with the brush and voila, we had a hearts. We snapped a few pictures and came away from the class with one totally cute painting and the knowledge to create this same type of event at the yoga studio.



Stay tuned…there will be a fun painting event coming up!

Does anyone have creative outlets they need to feed?

Stay Strong in all that you do!