100 Days of Blogging

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Hello and Happy Monday!

That was totally forced.  Not because I don’t mean it (I do), but because I’ve been sitting here for almost 30 minutes trying to figure out how to start this post.

You may have noticed in my post yesterday a new category: 100 Days of Blogging.  If you didn’t notice, don’t feel bad–I probably wouldn’t have noticed it either.  For those of you not familiar, it is pretty much as it sounds: posting for 100 days.  I thought it a nice way to force coax myself back into posting regularly.

As I was pondering whether I could keep up the pace of posting daily, the thing that had me pondering the most was what I would talk about.  Sure, I can talk your ear off about anything and I did complete the 100 Happy Days Challenge on ShezzaSpeak a few years ago, but would it keep you interested?  I mean, I could find funny things to post for Sunday Comics and the MWWC would provide several posts, but then it hit me (or rather, my coffee finally kicked in): a couple of weeks ago I had a chance to catch up with a friend from high school, whom I had not seen since I graduated but had recently reconnected with on Facebook.

As we recounted the last 20-something years, we realized we both shared a love of history and travel and in fact, we had both just visited Iceland.  As we were recounting our trips, it made me realize that it’s been awhile since I’ve shared any travel stories with you.  I haven’t even shared my Hawaii trip!  In fact, I can’t actually tell you the last trip I shared with you–perhaps The Fabulous Not Forty trips?  Wow…I have been a wanderlust-writing sloth!

So, here we go!  Check back daily–or follow me and have each post magically appear in your email or on your feed (whichever makes you happy!). And don’t worry, there won’t be a 100 posts on Hawaii…I mean, this is Day 2 and I did go to Iceland and Canada and a few other places as well 😉

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Aloha!

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An Update on a Couple of Big Things

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I’d just like to add an update: April reminded me that we only visited a large floating loon in this post; the largest floating loon lives in Virginia. I mean, it’s so hard keeping large floating loons straight these days. Much like Grandma having to run down all the grandchildren’s names before she gets to the right kid.

April also reminded me that we visited the world’s largest FREESTANDING hockey stick. This, of course, piqued my curiosity and almost immediately I googled “world’s largest hockey stick.”

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world’s largest hockey stick is 205 feet long, weighing in at 62,000 pounds! It was commissioned by the Canadian Federal Government for the 1986 Expo in Vancouver. It now resides at the Cowichan Community Centre in Duncan, Vancouver Island, Canada. April suggested that the freestanding label is “perhaps how we avoid size fights with the Canadians???”

I think perhaps she’s right 😉

The Epicurious Texan

A few posts ago, I mentioned that April and I had penchant for searching for “World’s Biggest [insert random object here]”–well, this trip was filled with them!  I mean, how else are you going to break up a long road trip?

sidenote: now that I’m thinking about it, Minnesota and Australia seem to have a large number of “World’s Biggest” objects.  And I would also like to express my personal belief that if you’ve never seen the World’s Biggest Prawn in Ballina, NSW Australia, your life really is never going to be completely whole.  Of course, you could disagree with me, but well….you’d be wrong.

Anyway, back to Minnesota and this trip.  April had already marked out several stops to see big things, such as the World’s Biggest Walleye.

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However, this turned out to be a BIG FAT LIE.  It’s not the biggest.  We have actually seen one bigger (ha! that’s what she said!!)…

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Chinese Non-Delivery

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Remember in my earlier posts about it being the start of low season and everything closing up early?  Turns out, that affected the food industry as well.  Since our deck had not one, but two grills, we decided it might be fun to grill something for dinner.  We found a grocery store, strolled around for awhile, but nothing struck our fancy.  So we decided Chinese delivery sounded great, bought some candy and left.

Get back to B&B, find the menu, and notice that they don’t offer delivery service between October and April.  Great! Fantastic!  We peruse through the rest of the menus that would deliver–at least in October–but nothing sounded as good, so we opted to go back into town to pick up dinner.  Besides, I needed coffee supplies anyway–because thankfully while April was reading the menu, I was exploring kitchen supplies and noticed the only coffee on hand was decaf.  DECAF!  DEEEEEECAAAAAAFFFFFFFF.  Who does that?!?!? Plus it also allowed us to pick up blizzards at Dairy Queen–so in the end, it was quite a successful jaunt into town.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Chinese delivery take-out:  it’s 7:40pm when we call.  It’ll take about 30 minutes, can we be there by 8pm?  Uh, what?  Okay [definitely not arguing with getting our food faster].  She gives me the price and the address and just happens to mention not to be late because they close at 8pm.  Okay.  BY 8PM [she just keeps repeating this].  Message received loud and clear.  We arrive at 7:53pm because, well, we definitely wanted our food–not just because we were hungry–rather we weren’t sure if any other food options would still be open other than the 24-hour gas mart.  At this point we were even panicking that DQ might be closed.

Fortunately it was still open.

With food, blizzards, and coffee supplies in our hot little hands, we returned back to the B&B for a quiet night in, playing Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit.  And for those of you in my life who think I’m a LotR’s fanatic, I just want you to know that April kicked my ass!

The Great Canadian Trek

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Having made the grand loop in International Falls in record time, we then decided to just go for broke and head to Canada.  After a few failed attempts by Siri and Google Maps (of course it was their fault!), we finally found a parking spot near the bridge to cross the border on foot.

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Once on the other side, we followed the sign (there was only one…as opposed to the US side, where there was a sign every 10 feet and arrows on the walkway) to the Canadian Immigration Office.

After a few glances around to make sure that we were in the right building, we walked in and presented our passports.

What is your destination in Canada?

The Yukon, we thought we’d hike there (just kidding–I learn a loooong time ago not to mess with Border Patrol or Airport Security, but that’s a story for another time).

We just came to visit Fort Frances.

And your purpose for your visit?

To…visit…Fort…Frances.

Will you be visiting relatives?

No ma’am.

Friends?

No ma’am.

So, you’re not visiting anyone?

No ma’am.

Why are you here, again?

To just to see your beautiful town.

Silence [oh shit, we we not supposed to enter Canada?].  Agent looks very befuddled.

So you’re not visiting anyone?  No family?  No friends?

No ma’am, I’m visiting my friend, we drove up this morning from St. Paul and just wanted to wander about the town, maybe do some shopping, you know stuff like that.

Where are you staying?

International Falls–at a B&B.

So you don’t actually know anyone here?

No ma’am.

More silence. Big sigh [handing back our passports].

Alright.  Welcome to Canada.

We hightailed it out of the building and towards the quaint little town.  We found a cute little coffee shop but decided to stop on our way back, since it quickly became very apparent that most shops were either closed or closing soon.

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We walked down what we presumed to be the main street.  We peeked into a lot of windows with CLOSED signs and stopped into the few shops that were open–mainly out of curiosity of what kind of shop would still be open at 4:15pm on a Saturday afternoon!  We made a large block, stopping for photos along the way.  We looped our way back to the cute little coffee shop for a coffee/hot chocolate and perhaps a snack before heading back.

We walked up, pulled on the door, and it didn’t open.  HAHAHAHAHA. Oh look, it closed at 4:30pm!

Now we understood the Immigration Agent’s confusion about why we were visiting.  Actually, we realized about 5 minutes in, but this really drove the point home.

Finally admitting defeat, we waved as we passed by the Immigration office.  Less than an hour after crossing into Canada we were back home.  The US Border Patrol agent chuckled at our story and seemed amused it took us almost an hour.

Yeah, things close up pretty early across the river.

Turns out, it was pretty much the same in International Falls.  As we walked towards the car, we noticed a souvenir shop.  We first checked the hours of operation, celebrated that we still had 15 minutes to grab some kitschy gifts, only to walk up to the door and discovered that they closed early for the day.

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Good thing we have a room with a view!

International Falls

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Things change.  I know, I know–let the eye rolling begin.  However, I am only mentioning this because for my 30th birthday I received the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die.  In the USA chapters, it lists International Falls, MN as one of these places.

I have been dropping hints to April left, right, and center EVERY SINGLE TRIP–or even mention of a trip–to Minnesota I’ve made since I got this book.  For 10 long years has poor April had to endure these not so subtle hints, which is apparently her ceiling for being harassed 😉

International Falls, MN:  one of top 1000 places to see before you die?  Ummmm…I’m going to have to agree to disagree on this one.  DO NOT GET ME WRONG.  It’s a great little town, and yes, we were there during start of low season, but the Falls–which are to be the highlight of International Falls–are actually covered/been diverted or something the nice border patrol agent told us that I can’t remember right now…

It is also known as the coldest place in the United States, but honestly, I have NO DESIRE WHATSOEVER to experience that.

What you don’t want to miss is the giant Smokey Bear in the middle of town.

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Oh c’mon…don’t even act like you aren’t going to stop the car and take a couple of pictures if you were driving through and saw it.  Besides, April and I have a penchant for tracking down the “World’s Largest [fill in blank here]”.  I could probably create an entire blog for that, but instead you’ll just have to settle for a few posts.

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It was a nice change of pace and the scenery was gorgeous.  We stayed in a cute B&B right on water.  It was right outside of town and had a large lumberjack to greet us!

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Because we were the only ones there that night, we were upgraded to the biggest suite.  It was rather peaceful just sitting out on the deck–albeit a bit surreal knowing that I was looking at Canada.  It was also rather remote.  Sure there was a railroad and were a lot of cabins and houses around, but most were vacant and or sparsely filled.  Not that we minded, it allowed us time to wander around the neighborhood.

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It was fun and I’m very glad that we went…even if the entire trip April kept giving me looks of “this is why I’m confused why you were so insistent about coming here.”  Should you go?  Absolutely!  Must you see it before you die? I’m gonna say no.  There were other places on our trip that I thought were more must-sees than International Falls, which is why you should always listen to your local guide darling friend that grew up there, even if a book suggests otherwise!

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PS–I do want to leave you with a bit of advice: if you do go to International Falls, MN and you get a slightly remote B&B by the water and you and your friend are the only ones in the house that has no locks and your friend who lovingly drove the entire trip turns in early because she’s tired, you should NOT start a Criminal Minds marathon.  I’m just saying…creeeeeeeepy!

Room With A View…Of Canada

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Have Passport, Will Roadtrip.

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You always travel with your passport, right?

Of course, I keep it with me all the time–because you never know when you might have to leave the country quickly.

I thought so, but I wanted to double check…and well, remind you to bring your passport.

Like for Birthday Trip #1, my only requests for Birthday Trip #2 is to go somewhere I hadn’t been before and I didn’t want to plan it (wow, I really AM a prima donna!).  Once we had decided that MSP would be our starting point, I pretty much let April take over the planning.  And by pretty much, I mean totally (thanks, April, for allowing me to foist that upon you!).

So when the aforementioned conversation happened, I was hopeful that Canada was going to make the itinerary.  I mean, April does live in a border state.  But one never knows, perhaps you now need a passport to go to South Dakota.  All I was told is that my first full day in Minnesota would be an early start and I would need a change of clothes.

Passport?  Check!

Extra clothes?  Check!

Snacks?  DOUBLE CHECK! (what?  this is me–April knew snacks were her best bet to keep me awake during our drive).

Coffee?  First stop, right around corner from April’s house.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, April handed me a stack of papers:

You navigate.  And since you’re bound to figure out soon, if you haven’t done so already, we’re headed for Canada, so if you forgot your passport now would be the time to say something.

I’m quite sure I squealed in response.  In less than a month, I went from the most southern point to the top of the country.  I was excited.  Six hours and change is how long it took to get our destination: International Falls, MN.   This meant that I could cross another place off from my 1,000 Places to See Before You Die book.  Don’t roll your eyes at me–it’s the little things in life.

During our drive north, the foliage changed considerably–from barely any change in the Twin Cities to nearly bare trees when we got to International Falls.  It was quite a beautiful contrast to the plush greenery of Florida.

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La Bella Vita

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Happy New Year!

I hope your holidays have been wonderful and bright and all that jazz.

I recently have been playing host to 4 friends from very different parts of the globe.  Now that they have all gone, stillness has quietly crept back into my house (aside from the yelling at the &%*I$(#^&^%$^ football game), which has allowed for some inner reflection of the craziness that was 2014.  I had some pretty spectacular moments; unfortunately they were not all happy spectacular moments, but a few gut-wrenching ones as well.

Don’t worry this isn’t going to be a sappy-Shez-has-had-too-much-champers-and-going-to-make-everyone-cry post.  First of all, I don’t do sappy very well and secondly, I need to get a move on because it’s halftime and I definitely don’t want to be writing/editing when the game comes on again, lest my laptop be accidentally thrown in a fit of screaming “my granny could run faster than that!”

Where was I?  Oh yes: I just wanted to say thank you.  Thank you to all the wonderful bloggers who support me and challenge me and make me laugh.  And an even bigger THANK YOU to my amazing family and friends for, well, everything.

I’ve had some very surreal moments this year.  Snorkeling with jelly fish, for example, or watching the Times Square ball drop and being covered in confetti or sitting on a deck in Minnesota, staring at a beautiful sunset looking out over Canada or standing next to my cousin while she solidified her life with a really great guy (although NO ONE tell him that because we’ll never hear the end of it!).

Not too long ago, I was having coffee with my friend Des, who remarked that her favorite thing about me was that it didn’t matter what crazy place she wanted to go or what crazy thing she wanted to do, I had a story about why it would be a great idea.

I realized at that very moment that I had been blessed with a very unique outlook on life that made it unpredictable, but oh-so-beautiful.  It was nothing like I ever imagined it would be when I was growing up smack dab in the middle of Texas and it certainly isn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I think–no, I know–that I have spent a lot of time in the past few years obsessing about the negatives and everything that has gone wrong, and so my goal for this year is to focus more on the positives and figure out a way to create even more beauty in my life….starting with reminding the Cowboys they are actually playing today and figuring out how to get them show up and win (what? surely you didn’t expect me to end on a sappy note?!?!).

Best wishes for a happy, prosperous, and beautiful 2015!

xoxo,

Shez and the darling princess pupcicle

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