First Wedding on the Road – Part 1

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to write a new blog post. We had the pre-wedding, the wedding, and then we moved, so things have been very busy.  I also wanted to mention that although I took pictures around the date of the wedding, the actual wedding day I chose not to take any pictures at all.  We hired a professional photographer and those pictures will be available in about 30 days so I will share them in a separate post.  But I am jumping ahead. Let me go back to the beginning.

We left Anatoth Farm on the Wednesday before the wedding, and moved to St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park, a county park in Hastings, MN. I chose this park because of its proximity to the venue, and the hotel where the out-of-town guests were staying, but what a pleasant surprise.  The sites were extremely large and well cared for, and our site “Z” was one of the best sites we have ever stayed in.  Now, before you get too excited, there’s some down side. They don’t allow pets, they have a somewhat grumpy staff (both volunteers and employees) and are only water and electric, but WOW, the site itself was really terrific.  

View from our campsite

View from our campsite

Boat dock area

Boat dock area

 

 

River

St. Croix River

 

 

 

 

The fawn that visited us every morning

The fawn that visited us every morning

 

After getting settled, we ran into Hastings and went to Walmart.  We are going to spend a month in International Falls, where Lee will be doing some video production for the RV-Dreams website.  The campground we will be staying at is very remote (about 34 miles to the nearest grocery store) so Linda recommended stocking up.  I knew the next few days would be crazy so decided now was the best time to get it out-of-the-way.  I’m so glad that I did, because as you will see, the next few days were definitely action packed.  When we were driving through Hastings I saw a sign that said The Falls of the Vermillon River.  After a quick internal debate I asked Lee if we could turn around and stop.  I am still not used to the fact that we can just stop and see things.  That’s one of the best things about this lifestyle, the ability to take a pause and really look around.  Even after eight months though, I still feel the conditioning to get where I am going, and finish what I am doing, but I am getting better at taking the time to stop and see things and enjoy myself!  Every time the thing we stop to look at is awesome, it reinforces how good the decision was to slow down and take a look.  Take a look at the pictures and you decide if the short detour was worth it.  Both Lee and I definitely thought it was.

The Falls at Vermilion River

This was a really big waterfall tucked in a corner of a park we were really surprised.

The walls surrounding the falls were really cool with natural caves

The walls surrounding the falls were really cool with natural caves

Lots of old beautiful trees and as a tree lover this one really spoke to me

Lots of old beautiful trees and as a tree lover this one really spoke to me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we had a couple of nature moments which was lovely because by Thursday the wedding was in full swing.  I took Wednesday through Friday off so had plenty of time, and we took full advantage of it.  First, we met the kids for lunch at this really funky Ecuadoran restaurant.   It’s one of Kat’s favorites and since it was her 24th birthday, she got to pick.  It was actually very good and we loved spending time with just us, Kat and Micah, Nick (our almost son), his girlfriend Slushie, and Kyrston (who had flown in the day before).   One thing about this wedding; it really showed how much people love my daughter.  We had several of her friends from New Hampshire come in and Nick and Slushie flew all the way in from San Francisco, as well as my parents and brother and sister, who flew in from Ohio, and Lee’s parents and aunt, who drove from Ohio.

From left: Nick, Lee, Micah, Kat, and Kyrston

From left: Slushie, Nick, Lee, Micah, Kat, and Kyrston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch we all split up, and Kat, Kyrston, and I went out for some beauty.  First we went downtown and visited Kat’s hair salon and got eyebrow waxes.  It was really nice and in a mall that was in a variety of connected office buildings.  Because the snow is so bad there is a complete enclosed skywalk system that connects most of the buildings on the second floor, and the first and second floors are often taken up by retail establishments which take advantage of the foot traffic. Very cool.  Then we met Linda (Micah’s mom), Sarah (Micah’s Sister), Jamie (Sarah’s wife), and Stacy (the maid of honor) to get manicures and pedicures. It was a lot of fun, and afterwards we went back to Sarah and Jamie’s house and met the all the guys for dinner.  That was amazingly fun.  We ate food, drank wine, and played a really fun game called “J’awesome”.  It’s a game the kids made up by combining Taboo, Charades, and Password.  It’s pretty complicated to explain but you use the same phrases through all three rounds, but are allowed to use less clues each round to get people to guess.  I haven’t laughed that hard in a long while and the wine was really good.  It was the perfect way to start off the weekend with both sides of the family together and we were so grateful to Sarah and Jamie for hosting.

From right: Stacy, me, Kyrston, Sarah, and Jamie

From right: Stacy, me, Kyrston, Sarah, and Jamie

 

 

 

Stacy (who was the best maid of honor I have ever seen) and Kat

Stacy (who was no kidding the most amazing  maid of honor I have ever seen) and my girl Kat

My beautiful Kat

My beautiful Kat (also known as Katy)

 

 

 

 

 

My son-in-law Micah and me

My son-in-law Micah and me

Micah's brother Jesse who was an absolute doll through the whole process

Micah’s brother Jesse who was an absolute doll through the whole process.  He kept giving me random hugs to keep me going.  Such a sweetheart.

Linda...Micah's Mom

Linda…Micah’s Mom was having a great time

 

 

Thursday was a ton of fun but the serious work started on Friday.  Lee and I got to the venue at 8:50am (luckily the wine was so good I didn’t even have a teeny hangover) and were pleasantly surprised to see that Stacy had beat us there was already working!  See what I mean? Best Maid of Honor ever!!  The venue is called Jean Acres (the owner’s name is James Jean which cracked me up) and it’s a working farm that they have converted into an event venue.  Really cool place and I can see why the kids fell in love with it, but it doesn’t come with staff, so we knew we (and our awesome volunteers) would be doing most of the heavy lifting.  We started with setting up the tables and the place settings because we knew this process would take some time.  Katy and Micah were very specific about what they wanted for place settings, as they wanted them to represent their interests. By this time I was on board with the idea but I knew it would take time.  Luckily, Stacy was a huge help with this and we got the tables complete in 2-1/2 hours.  I’d like to mention here that you can have an absolutely gorgeous wedding on a budget, but you need to do a lot of the work yourself. Since we are on a budget and not afraid of some hard work we were perfectly happy to jump in.  Plus I have to say it was really fun getting to explore my artistic side and when my mother-in-law told me three times at the wedding how great the tables looked it was totally worth it. My picture below doesn’t show them in the completed stage, so I’ll replace them with the photographers photos later but here’s a taste so you can get an idea.  We added flowers and twinkle tea lights the next day. 

Micah loves dinosaurs and I was all about making that happen so this centerpiece (with some flowers that came later) was on the head table

Micah loves dinosaurs and I was all about making that happen so this centerpiece (with some flowers that came later) was on the head table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures of the kids

Linda and I chose pictures of the kids and then coordinated them with one of Kat and Micah’s favorite quotes which was in the third frame.  These were a huge hit

 

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They had books, with keys and a cup of tea really cute.  We also had one with lab beakers but I didn’t get a pic of that

Kat and I were into it

This is pre flowers but the space was really quite beautiful once it was all done

 

Kat and I had a really good time

Kat and I had a really good time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we were working on this Kyrston arrived with her boyfriend Jeremy who came straight from the airport.  Jeremy is an Assistant Manager of a beautiful wedding venue in Newport Rhode, Island and he was an absolute life saver.  I would put him on an area and say “work your magic” then walk away and come back to find something absolutely gorgeous.  This was the first time Jeremy had met Lee (who rarely likes the boyfriends on the first meeting) and Lee was impressed.  Plus, he’s a really sweet guy and obviously adores my daughter.  Gotta love that!

Jeremy's snack table made from stuff he found laying around...amazing

Jeremy’s snack table made from stuff he found laying around…amazing

 

 

Jeremy and Kyrston

Jeremy and Kyrston

 

While my crew was working on the reception area, Lee and his crew were working on the ceremony site.  The farm has a huge beautiful willow tree and the kids decided they wanted to get married underneath it.  Katy had hired two people from Panera to help Saturday and Sunday and they worked with Lee to get the 120 chairs arranged.  He also placed stakes in the ground so the wedding party would know where to stand and with Nick and Slushie’s help started setting up the four video cameras to tape the rehearsal.  Lee was a wedding videographer when we were very young and has done many, many weddings, but he was going to be pretty busy walking the bride down the aisle so Nick graciously offered to help with the cameras during the actual ceremony. Luckily we knocked most of the work out prior to it getting really hot but around 12:30 it was pretty brutal.  I think it was the hottest day of summer so far and the humidity was very high.  Everyone hung in there though, and we were in good shape when the rest of the wedding party started to arrive around 2:30.

Slushie and Nick were a huge help with the video setup

Slushie and Nick were a huge help with the video setup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to say the rehearsal worked beautifully.  Jim (Micah’s dad) set up his sound system (he has done sound at many weddings) and Lee worked with everyone to get the timing and blocking down.  Then we walked through the ceremony twice and were done by 4:30.  It was incredibly hot, but folks were very patient with the process, and I will say Lee knows what he is doing, because the actual ceremony the next day went off without a hitch and that is largely due to the pre-production work he coordinated in the rehearsal.  After the rehearsal, the wedding party went into the party room section of the venue which was somewhat cooler and had the rehearsal dinner.  Micah’s Aunt and Uncle made some wonderful food and the deserts Barb made were to die for.  After dinner, we headed back to the hotel everyone was staying in, and met my family that had flown or driven in that day.  My sister Wendy came with my mom and my brother Eddie came with my dad. Lee’s parents Dede and Denny drove and had stopped in Indiana to pickup Lee’s Aunt Dorothy.  It was wonderful seeing everyone and we had a really big group between our and Micah’s family and it was a nice informal way for everyone to meet the day before.  This seems a good place to break, so stay tuned for The Wedding – Part II and thanks so much to all my friends and family who were so very supportive throughout the process.

Lee directing the wedding party

Lee directing the wedding party

Lined up in nice neat rows

Lined up in nice neat rows

 

Pulled pork, cucumber salad, and kale salad all from ingredients produced from the farm ...yummy!!

Pulled pork, cucumber salad, and kale salad all from ingredients produced from the farm …yummy!!

The two kinds of chees cake were awesome!!

The two kinds of cheese cake were awesome!!

 

From left: P.J her best man, Stacy her maid of honr, and Kat

From left: P.J her best man, Stacy her maid of honor, and Kat

Katy wore a beautiful dress

Katy wore a beautiful dress

St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park 10191 St Croix Trail S, Hastings, MN   4 out of 5 pine cones

Extremely large and neat sites all pull through in the modern campground area.  Electric and Water only but very clean dump station,  Site Z is on the corner looking into woods and field and we regularly saw deer walking through.  There is a beach and boat access, along with conference centers, a playground, volley ball court, tennis court, and many other common areas.  NO PETS are allowed in the campground (although we saw them in the boat dock area).  It was largely empty the entire time we were there and the fellow campers were quiet and polite.  My largest complaint was the office staff and campground hosts.  They were not very friendly to “out-of towners” and complete sticklers for the rules.  That being said, aesthetically it was a beautiful park, one of the nicest we have stayed in.  There is no wi-fi, but my ATT coverage was good.  The price is $25 a day and what is not very clear on their website is there is an additional per car $5 day access pass you have to pay for on arrival. (Reservations for the campground are done online.) The annual pass is $25 which you can purchase if your stay is 5 days or longer.  They are also inflexible with their cancellation policy.  We left a day early and even though we told them that at the beginning of our one week stay they were unwilling to refund us that day.   You can stay in the park for one week but then need to move to another spot if you are going to stay longer.

 

First Time in Stillwater, MN

As much as we are enjoying the farm, I really wanted to get out this weekend and see the area a bit so I decided on visiting Stillwater, MN which is about 45 minutes away.  Stillwater is a very quaint town built on Lake St. Croix which was made when the Mississippi where it joined the St. Croix river.  Originally the St. Croix river was an outlet of the glacial Lake Duluth (precursor to Lake Superior) and ran much higher and even before that the ocean covered Minnesota during the Cambrian period.  The rock walls are very distinctive and chiefly made of sandstone and because they exist here in such pristine condition, these formations are known as the St. Croixian series wherever they appear in North America.  The town is also the site where the state of Minnesota was originally formed and is super cute with tons of restaurants and shops.  So geology, history, and shopping…I am totally in!!

Stillwater as seen from the height where the river used to be

Stillwater as seen from the height where the river used to be

Birthplace of Minnesota

Birthplace of Minnesota

An example of the sandstone walls

An example of the sandstone walls

They had paddleboat tours along the lake

They had paddleboat tours along the lake

 

They have done an excellent job with the town itself by taking the old existing buildings and turning them into retail establishments without losing the original look and feel of the city. I was also very fond of this little park they have called Teddy Bear Park for kids and my absolute favorite was the million dollar restroom.  There is a simple brick restroom down on the waterfront which they call the million dollar restroom because it is taking up a space of prime waterfront real estate.  Very cool.  So great shops, lots of bar restaurants, and a funky feel.  Hang onto your wallet though because the prices are on the high side and it’s hard not to want to buy a few things.

Grainery converted into a cafe

Grainery converted into a cafe

The "million dollar" restroom

The “million dollar” restroom

 

 

 

This particular building reminded me of downtown Keene

This particular building reminded me of downtown Keene

Every time I see an Oil and Vinegar store I think of my friend Deb who used to own one

Every time I see an Oil and Vinegar store I think of my friend Deb who used to own one

Fun main street

Fun main street

I loved this sign outside of one of the bars

I loved this sign outside of one of the bars

 

This is one of those bar bikes where everyone pedals and it meanders around town

This is one of those bar bikes where everyone pedals and it meanders around town

An adirondack chair made out of leftover skis was cool and unique

An Adirondack chair made out of leftover skis was cool and unique

 

My favorite store had tshirts with the jacket covers of out of print books

My favorite store had tshirts with the jacket covers of out of print books

a kids section

a kids section

 

Lee was bummed they only had the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy in medium

Lee was bummed they only had the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy in medium

Lots of neat cafes

Lots of neat outdoor cafes

 

This brewery was awesome

This brewery was awesome

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After Stillwater we took our time driving back to the farm and along the way we discovered an old drive in theater that had been turned into an outdoor church.  Our friend Mark loves drive in theaters and we knew he would like the pictures so we stopped and checked it out.  Pretty neat concept really you can drive in with your car and then listen to the minister who is on a little stand.

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We also stopped and saw Rice Beds Creek which is an area close to the the farm where wild rice grows.  The harvesting process sounds pretty laborious.  It is a two person job, one pushing the canoe, the other inside.  You bend over the rice (which looks like tall grass) and then whack it so the rice falls in the bottom of the canoe.  I guess it is a hot, buggy exercise and once you have the rice you still need to to take it somewhere to be processed (baked and hulled).  I bought some wild rice from the Co-Op at $17 a pound and we will see if the taste is worth that much work.  Most Minnesota wild rice you eat in stores is actually a hybrid of regular rice and wild rice which allows it to be grown and cultivated by more traditional methods.  It was  cool though and the pictures don’t do justice to how pretty the area was.

Wild Rice Creek

Wild Rice Creek

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Sunday I had an opportunity to attend the West Denmark Lutheran church.  I was raised and confirmed Lutheran and identify myself as such (although I am quite happy to attend other churches as well) and was excited about the opportunity to attend a Lutheran church in an area of the country where they are very common.  The West Denmark church was founded primarily by some Danish families and reflects both the Lutheran religion but also the culture and value systems of the local danish people.  The original church was lost to fire in the 1980’s and the new one is full of the most beautiful wood.  It also has several pieces of hand carved wood (including the large cross) that were done by a member of the church who was the  great-grandson of a famous danish woodcarver.  The church sits on 11 acres of lake front property and has multiple buildings including a small school, party room, church, and house for Pastor Linda and her husband.  I was curious as to how they made that work with such a small congregation but it turns out that the church allowed a widow and her 5 children to live in the house after the father died.  All 5 kids went on to become very successful in life and not forgetting what the church had done for them contribute substantially to infrastructure projects.  I love stories like that.  Makes me believe in the human spirit.  The other thing I really liked about the church is that on it’s programs it states that it is open to all regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation.  So this tiny Danish church in the middle of rural Wisconsin is doing it’s own small part to support the LGBT community.  Again, amazing what you find as you wander this country and some of the nicest surprises are in the least likely places.

West Denmark Lutheran Church

West Denmark Lutheran Church

The cross was hand carved and beautiful

The cross was hand carved and beautiful

The detail on the banisters was stunning and represented the Danish heritage

The detail on the banisters was stunning and represented the Danish heritage

Loved this prayer stand

Loved this prayer stand

 

This handmade Danish ship was made by a deceased parishioner and hangs proudly from the rafters

This handmade Danish ship was made by a deceased parishioner and hangs proudly from the rafters

Very lovely

Very lovely

 

The rest of Sunday was largely uneventful but we did have some very serious storms at night. Linda and Jim offered to allow us into their home but we decided to ride it out in the rig.  Peak gusts were over 50 mph and the rig did shake a little, but it was manageable. I felt quite a bit safer since we weren’t near any big trees, but the lightning did freak me out a little.  It’s definitely going to be part of what we have to deal with going forward and overall I thought we did OK.  Lee’s really calm in a crisis so that helped keep me calm as well.

So that’s the end of the farm posts.  I work Monday and Tuesday, we move to a campground closer to the venue on Wednesday and then its all wedding through the weekend.  Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for awhile I am guessing I will be pretty busy!!

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