Beautiful & Easy

One of my newfound loves for the garden that grows well and will continuously bloom throughout the summer and into the fall are Nasturtiums. The name is odd and it requires me to spellcheck it every time I use it. But the flowers and leaves are unlike any other I have come across yet.

There are about 80 types of Naturtiums recorded around the world. In warm climates zones 9-11; they are an annual plant. Here in Minnesota we have to replant them every year. But you won’t mind that if you normally only invest your time & money in perennials  – just stay tuned!

If you go online you will find many types of seeds to consider. Local nurseries rarely have them for sale in pots as Nasturtiums don’t like to be transplanted. However the packets of seeds are really affordable for you to grow them yourself. Plus, they do best grown from seed in their final destination whether it’s in the ground as borders, or pops of color in terraces, pots or hanging planters.

Nasturtiums first caught my eye long before I ever saw the first bloom. It was the leaves that had such a beautiful and unusual shape; like Lilly Pads floating in the air. Then came the bright orange flowers that were abundant and continuous all the way into the fall last year.

Not only are the blooms bright and beautiful for your gardens, they are a colorful garnish to just about everything you present on the table. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible and have a true pepper taste to them; an easy add to any salad.

The botanical name for Nasturtiums is Tropaeolum (even harder to remember to spell!) and they have been recorded in history as far back at the 1500’s.

Now, as promised, the reason why you will love these low-maintenance gems even if you are a “Perennial Purist”:

  • The seeds (about the size of a pea), just need to be plunked into the soil
  • Any soil will work; the poorer the quality, the better
  • You don’t have to fertilize them. In fact, don’t fertilize. If you do, you will get more leaves than blooms
  • No need to dead head them
  • They will grow in sun or shade, just keep them watered weekly

For the last couple years, we have been planting the seeds at the start of summer in order to have them produce blooms after many of the other flowering plants are spent for the season.

If you have any plants that are beautiful, easy, abundant and can survive the summer sun, I would love to hear your recommendations.

I will always look at plants and trees with fascination. Though we can grow them from seed, we as humans cannot create plants out of nothing. I consider them little miracles that should never be taken for granted.

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Fabrics

While in India last year, I had the chance to visit a fabric printing company. I’ve always wondered about how each one of those brilliantly colored designs ends up on a piece of silk or cotton.

When I say factory, it’s a term that I use quite loosely because it was an old town in an old building with artisans who have been in the business their entire life!

It’s actually a master a skill that has been handed down from each of their parents, sometimes grandparents or even great grandparents. I found them sitting either on the ground or tall stools that have probably been there just as long as the workers. The factory is open air and allows the fabrics to dry in the beautiful Indian heat. It sounds absolutely tedious, time consuming and just plain hard work. And if that was your thought, you would be right!

But the results speak for themselves.

Creating the stamps for printing was breathtaking.  I was most interested in finding out how they created each of these. I thought that the stamps would be made of metal, rubber or some type of resin but they’re not, they’re all hand carved into wood pieces. These can take a day to a week to create and each stamp will be assembled to create a bigger stamp. I can’t imagine having that job! There’s so much pressure of messing it up and with one mistake, my entire design would be ruined. However stamp by stamp, design by design, each one of the artisans hand carve the designs you see with their own microscopic tools; it is a beautiful process that they make look wonderfully easy.

When they’re done with the stamps they take them upstairs to the top floor of the factory; remember that this is an open air factory.  The top floor is open to the sun and there is often a slight breeze.

Each of the pieces is printed by hand on this floor.  The fabric is spread out over a long table and pinned down so that it is perfectly flat.  Then the artisans come to work.  They gather around the cloth with the chosen stamp and begin the design.  They begin to dip into different colors of ink; each color is a different layer.  They clean the stamps between each one of the rotations and as they are layered with color, they are delicately placed on each one of the materials.

It’s painstaking to watch because if you don’t match up the designs then they don’t line up right in the finish piece. But, if you’re off with a color or you have too much color on your wooden stamp, then your design gets muddled as well. One of the things that  I was most impressed about is the color choices. While the rest of the world has gone with muddy grays and vanilla cream colors, India still lives in a vibrant world of hopeful color. They choose colors of beautiful pink fuchsias, tangerine oranges. Spring grass green and the deepest of the ocean blues. And as they begin to work each one of these colors a beautiful design begins to emerge.

When the pieces are done being printed, they are unpinned from the long table.  They are taken to a clothesline and are hung in the sunshine to dry. It only takes a few moments to dry as the wind ruffles through each piece of material.  The sun also makes them crisp and warm to the touch.  It is a sight to see and you are left with a gift of a lifetime!

So many things we take for granted today come from a great tradition somewhere. The color and design in clothing and home goods is so thrilling, but when you think about where he comes from and how it all got started, you begin to appreciate every single moment that went into creating your favorite new heirloom.

I think about that today, as I pass on traditions to my daughter, teaching her how to cook with all the passion that my mother taught me. Some things can only be handed down from generation to generation. Some things have nothing to do with materials or even skills but instead have to do with moments of great thought, heart, and understanding. Sometimes it means going beyond the normal rush of everyday life and slowing down to really appreciate what is in front of you.

So, thank you to all the artisans I met that day. How thoughtful every single stamp, every single color choice, and every single movement each artisan put into creating these beautiful fabrics really do leave me speechless.

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Beauty Sleep, It’s a Real Thing

We as hosts see so many new products, whether it’s fashion, electronics or beauty. However, once in a while one comes along that blows me away!  I will be 55 years old this year and at this point, it’s not beautiful shoes that I notice on someone, it is their skin.  I am always on the lookout for the fountain of youth…and I think I may have found it!  I am talking about Evoté Skin Care.  This brand debuted exclusively at Evine in May and it is different than anything I have seen, read or presented.  So when I was fortunate to get to host the worldwide launch of this evolution in skincare, I was really excited.

Evoté was started by a husband and wife dream duo, Irena and Nik James.  Irena is a highly respected instructor at UCLA and well known around the globe for educating on the latest in skincare innovation and cosmetic ingredients. Nik is the President and Chairman of YG Laboratories, a private label skincare manufacturer and developer. Nik was born into the beauty business as the son of the world’s most preeminent cosmetic ingredient expert, Rebecca Gadberry.

Evoté’s claim to fame is that it is a scientific, patent-pending system that works with your skin at NIGHT when your skin and body are biologically programmed to restore themselves, AKA “Beauty Sleep.”

OK, when I heard what they had to say I was intrigued and I had to try it for myself.  Fast-forward 1 month since I first tried Evoté and I am sold!  I started off with the Evoté Step 1 and Step 2, 12 hour bio complex to kick start my Evoté journey.  I did this for 20 days and my skin looked brighter and firmer with better elasticity and radiance. I then moved onto a nighttime only routine with Evoté. I use the night cleanser, the night serum, the night eye cream, the night neck & décolleté cream and the night lip serum.  This routine is easy and very effective.  I continue to see improvements in the appearance of my skin with less fine lines and a more youthful look to the texture of my skin. I gave Evoté a HUGE stamp of approval!

OK, so enough about me…I thought it would be fun to get to know the couple behind this new skincare line so I did a Question & Answer session with the power couple, Irena and Nik James.

1. What was the first beauty product you ever created?

Irena:  An egg white, lemon, sage and sour cherry masque that I made from the ingredients from my fridge and the sour cherry tree that grew in front of my parents house.  I was 12 years old!

Nik:  I can’t even remember that was so many products ago.

2. How did you get into this crazy business of beauty?

Irena:  I grew up around very strong women who were my mentors from a very early age and watched them apply the knowledge of ancient European herbal modalities, modern biology, horticulture, agriculture, skin care sciences and cosmetic chemistry into daily life.  My own skin struggles pushed me into professional skin care research, education and formulation.

Nik:  I was literally born into it!

3. Chocolate or Vanilla?

Irena:  Must have a mix of both, how about a combo?

Nik:  Chocolate!

4. What inspires you?

Irena:  Being able to help others achieve their potential, believe in themselves and recognize special and unique value they can bring to the world.  I am also inspired by the strengths of the human spirit, life and nature and the relentless will and need to evolve in order to survive better on this planet. This includes all life forms, from my children and my husband, animals and plants and those invisible creatures, microbes we coexist with.

Nik:  My family.  Seeing my kids feel confident and secure because they know we’ve always got their backs as well as the belief and support of Irena.

5. Where is your happy place?

Irena:  Weekends at home by the pool with my pile of books and 3 highlighters listening to my husband singing along with James Brown hits while cooking one of his delicious Sunday family meals.

Nik:  With my family in our backyard on a sunny Southern CA Sunday afternoon.

6. If you weren’t doing Evoté and in the beauty biz, what would you be up to right now?

Irena:  Working on my degree in Social anthropology and promoting charities that make it possible for underprivileged children and orphans from war affected areas to get education and clean water.

Nik:  Stand up comedy and running a charity for abandoned bulldogs.

7. What were you like in high school?

Irena:  The mix of 2 opposites.  Mostly studious, serious, nerdy and mildly anti-social, but also adventurous, loved to travel and learn about different cultures.  I always felt out of place growing up in Eastern Europe and always felt my home was somewhere else.

Nik:  I was a friend with every clique and group, (I was actually 2nd runner up for Senior Class Friendliest) despite the fact that I looked very different from everyone else.  I had green hair, or purple or blue and piercings in my nose, lip etc. and sang in a punk rock band!

8. How did the 2 of you meet?

Irena:  Nik’s mom was my Cosmetic Chemistry mentor and hired me to work as her Director of Education and co-instructor at UCLA Extension Cosmetic Sciences program.

Nik:  My mom “imported” Irena from Canada and brought her on to be Irena’s mentor.  I was managing HR at the time and the rest they say is history.

So is Evoté a skincare story or love story?  For Irena and Nik, I think a love story.  For me Evoté is now the chance for me to love my skin!

Thanks Evoté!

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Turkey’s Stray Dogs

In May of 2013, a series of violent protests began in Istanbul Turkey and spread through the rest of the country for the majority of that year.  My wife, Jennifer, and I had just spent much of March of that same year traveling through the Western part of Turkey not realizing what was about to occur. We visited Istanbul, Gallipoli, Troy, Ephesus, Kusadasi, Antalya, Cappadocia, Konya, and Ankara (Turkey’s capital). I could write several blogs based on places and events of that trip. I could blog about the cordial and welcoming Turks that we encountered. The delicious local foods that we enjoyed would be another subject. We stood in the theatre where the Apostle Paul spoke. We traveled by bus adjacent to the Silk Road, the ancient trade route linking China to the West. We walked the battlegrounds of the Trojan War at Troy.

But, being a dog owner, I wanted to share with you the special relationship between the Turkish people and the population of stray dogs (and cats) and how they are treated there. I noticed during our trip that there were a noticeable number of homeless dogs…everywhere. Many Turks are quite comfortable with, and even enjoy, having the free-roaming dogs around.
Free-roaming dogs have been documented in Istanbul for several hundred years at least, perhaps longer.  Today, dogs are found most anywhere – even in this patio area of a local restaurant. They are fed by families and business owners daily. Tin bowls for food and water can even be seen along the highways.

There is even a company in Turkey called Pugedon that has created a somewhat unusual but effective way to kill two birds with one stone – their vending machine in Istanbul takes bottles deposited for recycling and dispenses food for the city’s stray dogs.

Our guide told us that there are very few animal shelters throughout Turkey. The strategy instead is a trap-spay/neuter-vaccinate/treat and release program.  Free-roaming dogs are picked up off the streets and taken to local shelters where they are spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies and other diseases, treated for minor illnesses, ear-tagged for identification, and then released back to the neighborhood where they were trapped. You can see one of the tagged street dogs in the photograph below.

The most popular dog in Turkey is the Kangal. It is a breed of large livestock guardian dog originating from the Sivas province of Turkey. While the Kangal is often referred to as a sheep dog, it is not a herding dog, but rather a flock guardian that lives with the flock of sheep to actively fend off predators of all sizes. Typically used as protection against wolves, bears, and jackals in its native Turkey. The Kangals we encountered were very social except for the one protecting her pups.

This little guy was living in a market in Cappadocia. He had obviously sustained an injury and was limping. But all the store owners at the market treated him like their very own. I really wanted to bring him home.

During the harsh winter months, Turkish Malls will open their doors to stray dogs. The following photo is from a local newspaper.

If you ever have the chance to visit Turkey during safer times, don’t forget to take some treats with you. These homeless dogs and cats are very friendly and will often approach you for a treat or just a tummy rub.

I hope you enjoy the photos Jennifer took on our trip!

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To Travel (Alone) or Not To Travel? That is the Question

I’m often asked about how and why I travel so often…alone!

Is it an act of bravery, stupidity or out of necessity??

And the answer is, quite frankly, a little bit of all of them.

After witnessing both my parents passing, I made a truly conscious effort to change the parts of my life that weren’t making me happy and began to live the philosophy of Tim McGraw’s ‘Live Like You Were Dying’:

“Like tomorrow was a gift

And you’ve got eternity to think about

What you’d do with it

What could you do with it

What did I do with it

What would I do with it?”

Well, I wanted to LIVE this one marvelous life to the enth degree and experience all that it could throw my way. And just because I don’t have a traditional partner to do that with, doesn’t mean I should sit home alon. So, I put my big girl panties on and dove head first into an unbelievable abyss!

Anyone who really knows me, will tell you I am THE ultimate planner…albeit just to the left of Type A control freakishness. And solo traveling fits very well into my type of personality. No one to tell me what time to get up, no one with their own agenda, I get to do what I want, when I want and how I want…pretty awesome to be honest! And it’s equally awesome that my job has such a great vacation plan to afford me such unique experiences.
My first journey into this new found ‘live life’ philosophy took me to Tanzania and fulfilling a lifelong dream of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and then relaxing on safari afterwards. From figuring out flight times to trip details & training, special Visa requirements to shots, shots and more shots, I arrived in a completely foreign environment and met up with 10 strangers-all couples, mind you! What had I gotten myself into? After the requisite getting acquainted period and answering all the burning questions of, “How are you here by yourself?” we settled into the next 3 weeks of navigating terrain, climate changes and personalities. It wasn’t always easy and I realized I had to give up a lot of my control and just LIVE in the moment!

It was truly a life-changing trip for me.

From that moment on, it’s been a non-stop whirl of activity and I wouldn’t have it any other way. From the gorgeous and equally humbling National Parks that I adore so greatly to China, Hong Kong, Japan, Peru, Mexico, Nepal, Bali, Singapore, Amsterdam, London, Italy, Ireland, France and beyond….the world is truly an incredible oyster and I hope to continue exploring it for the rest of my life!

Sure, there have been challenges: Flat tires at 4am with no cell service, forgotten passports in another country, unique outdoor restroom facilities without the comforts of home, periods of silence and quiet reflection while not encountering a human being for days, misplaced luggage, flights being cancelled – you name it, I think I’ve been there, but I thrive on that and can’t wait for the next adventure to begin! I find complete solace in the prep work of a trip. However, it’s meeting the varied and incredibly friendly ‘strangers’ that walk into my life for short bursts  of time that has brought the most happiness. Some I’ve stayed in touch with and formed unbreakable bonds, others will never be seen again, but it’s the unspoken understanding that we are touching each others lives in ways that could never be measured that has made the biggest impact. I’ve learned how resilient the human spirit truly is. How we handle and figure out just about any circumstance if we take a good hard look at reality and how life is is such an incredible gift…we’ve only got ONE!! So what have you got to lose?

Go skydiving

Go Rocky Mountain Climbing

And maybe even go 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu

But most importantly

Love deeper,

Speak sweeter

And give forgiveness you’ve been denying….so one day you can truly say that you lived like you were dying.

Any tips I would share for a first time solo traveler? You bet!

*Solo travelers can blend more easily in a group so you don’t immediately stand out as a ‘fish out of water’

*Know in advance your destination point from airport to accommodations and approximate cost/time to get there-that way you can’t ‘be taken for a ride’

*Keep an extra copy of passport and money in more then one place on your person

*Walk confidently and with purpose-avoid “looking like a tourist”

*Never let anyone you are traveling alone, even if it’s just someone you’re asking for directions. Instead say, “I’m meeting friends at the Louvre in 15 minutes, I’m heading in the right direction, correct?”

*Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend at home and stay in touch regularly via free International apps

*Most importantly, have a sense of humor! Something is bound to go wrong, but that’s the fun of it!

XX

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A Wonder on the Other Side of the World

When I decided to go India this spring, I knew I needed to get to the Taj Mahal.  India’s most iconic mausoleum, inspired by love, has been adored by millions with its beauty. My mom always told me to travel – I did not realize how much I would fall in love with traveling since she has passed.   She is always remembered when I travel, meet new people and learn new cultures.

The Taj Mahal is in Agra on a beautiful river basin.  I guess I was not sure what to expect when I saw it for the 1st time, but it was magical.  I have never experienced a building that literally took my breath away and the grounds that surround the Taj Mahal are perfectly placed to support its beauty.  It is so big and majestic, yet it is personal and reflective at the same time.  Once you step foot into the grounds you understand why it is one of the manmade wonders of the world.

I thought it would be fun to give you some of the fun facts of the building for you to enjoy:

  • Construction began in 1632 and finished in 1653 – it took 22 years to build
  • 28 types of precious and semiprecious jewels are set in the marble of the building
  • Turquoise from Tibet and Jade from China are used throughout
  • All the white marble was transported from Rajasthan
  • The Taj is cracking at an alarming rate as it was built on wood structures on the river bed

I would love to have your travel recommendations for the year!  What is your dream destination?

 

 

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My Contraband Plant

Twenty years ago I made a long-anticipated move to Los Angeles with the intention that I would be the next host on Talk Soup. I would watch that show all the time and said to myself, “You could do that! So off to LA you must go.” Around the same time, one of my best friends who hosted me in Los Angeles for the prior 15 was moving on to Japan for his career. Though I was thrilled to create my next chapter in life, I was also bummed by the irony that he was about to start his somewhere else.

What he left me with was plenty of advice on Los Angeles…that, and a green twig (like the one pictured) in a 10-gallon bucket of dirt. That’s right, one twig and 5000 times its weight in dirt. Not potting soil….just road-side Malibu dirt.

John told me that his friend brought it back for him from Mexico. Or did he say it was contraband smuggled back as a souvenir? He also said, “Just wait, that thing is gonna be huge.” He had no instructions on care and feeding except: “Just wait.”

Not a week went by when I didn’t consider just tossing that twig and the bucket it rode in on.

John would never know. But he is the friend who would check on it occasionally over the phone from across the ocean. And I wasn’t gonna lie to him. So the little green twig became my only pet.

Of course I watered it. It was taking up space in my home and I had to make sense around that.

Also, HOW COOL to have a plant that shouldn’t be here. And how awesome that I was potentially aiding and abetting an illegal alien plant.

So “wait” and “keep this plant on the down low” I did, for what seemed like a lifetime.
Then, one day, out of nowhere, slight leaves appeared on the tips of that twig. Little did I know that these little bits of growth would be the next biggest branches that would make their own little upwardly mobile offspring.

Flash forward seven years and this little green contraband was seven-foot-tall contraband. Like a giant version of the Ker Plunk game I had as a kid with sticks going in all directions to keep the game marbles from falling, this unknown specimen was my LA Christmas tree of sorts.

This stellar, no-maintenance horticulture achievement also became a bit of good luck upon which I hung images of things I wanted to have happen in my life. I remember like it was last week reading an article on the hippest places (I was much younger then) in America. And the article focused on Northeast Minneapolis hung in the branches until it was time to say goodbye to LA and move to Minneapolis for my new chapter at ShopNBC (an earlier name for Evine).

Turns out the plant is not illegal after all. (Not the first time I fell for a good contraband story). Instead, it is available at nurseries around the United States and is called Euphorbia tirucalli, also known as aveloz, firestick plants, Indian tree spurge, naked lady, pencil tree, pencil cactus, sticks on fire or milk bush. It’s a tree that grows in semi-arid tropical climates, primarily in Africa.

If you are interested in having one of these plants, be fully aware that it produces a poisonous latex which can be very harmful to people and pets if eaten or touched on skin. So, as intriguing as this plant might be, it’s not for everyone.

When it came time for me to pack it all in, this plant was a prize I had to leave behind. So off to the home of one of my best friends it went.

Fortunately, I recently replaced it with one, much smaller, but on its way, from a neighborhood greenhouse here in Minnetonka. Surprisingly, it was only $20. And wait I will again, until this plant grows from one foot to seven feet.

Lastly, Talk Soup never signed me to be their next host. But many other, better blessings, came into my life in the form of amazing people that truly enriched my life, and plants that brought me good luck and taught me how to keep a little secret.

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Waterford Ireland Remote

In Waterford, Ireland, the tales of adventure go back over 1,000 years to 914 A.D. A time when fierce Viking warriors in their magnificent, tall, masted long ships with dragon carved prows appeared like mythical beasts on the River Suir. Reginald’s Tower, The Quay, is a Viking treasure…a tribute to those who settled here and established Waterford as Ireland’s oldest city.

 

To help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the partnership between Waterford Crystal and Evine, we will be broadcasting live, beginning April 27th from Waterford, Ireland! Last year, we took an amazing trip, inviting our viewers to help us celebrate our 9th anniversary with Waterford Crystal by broadcasting from amazing locations including the House of Waterford Crystal, the Viking Triangle, and the Waterford Castle.

This year, we will begin our celebration at the House of Waterford Crystal for the kickoff of our 10th anniversary. We will give you a tour of the factory and you will get to meet the talented Irish craftsmen who have been an integral part of Waterford History. Many of these craftsmen have been with Waterford for 30, 40, up to 55 years! You will get to see all of the steps the crystal piece must go through before we have the opportunity to present it to you on Evine.

The tour starts in the Mould Room (check out the name on the mould I saw last year), where a treasure trove of historic wooden moulds are housed. We then move to the Blowing and Furnace room, followed by Quality Inspection and Hand Marking. Then, on to the Cutting Department, where the craftsmen rely on an abundance of skill and dexterity to cut the pattern onto the crystal using a diamond tipped wheel. The tour concludes with a sculpting and engraving presentation – the one-of-a kind and limited edition pieces you will see here are amazing.

The hosts and guests really enjoy sharing this experience with you. Beginning in 1783, when George and William Penrose created this iconic brand, the pride in the craftsmanship and love of the beautiful crystal have been a constant thread that has been woven into the history of Waterford, Ireland.


I hope you can join us for the 10th anniversary celebration and hear from the talented craftsmen and brilliant designers as they share their love and passion for the brand!

It takes an amazing team to pull off broadcasting from so far away, think about that for a moment. All of the logistical planning and production equipment being shipped in for the event, even before we arrive. And, as busy as it is, the team always seems to find the time for a bit of fun. With hometown boy, Tom Brennan, serving as our tour guide, we are treated to some of the most beautiful sights, including Lismore Castle, The Rock of Cashel, and Ireland’s enchanting countryside.

I am so excited to take you back to the Emerald Isle!

Live your best life, a crystal life! See you in Ireland.

 

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Remembering Those Who Have Passed

I love when I can find old pictures! They make me so happy and I love getting a glimpse into a time when I was not even born. Lately I have been devouring many boxes at my parent’s house because I am putting together a special project for my wedding. As we get older, we all know that many of our dear relatives pass on. My Nani (Grandmother) was a very big part of my upbringing and she passed a few years ago.

Nani would have loved this upcoming wedding of mine. She was one of the feistiest women I knew. She didn’t speak a lick of English but would happily go for walks in our neighborhood when she came to visit and, when people would exchange a friendly greeting, she would raise her hand and say “Hi!” and that was that.

Growing up as a first-generation American, I did not get the same experience as many of my friends did with grandparents living here. I knew of them as distant relatives but did not have a close bond with them. I remember one year it was “Take a Grandparent to School Day.” Thanks Dad for being my pseudo Grandfather!

All that changed the moment Nani came to visit. She wore a bright green velvet pantsuit and greeted me at the door one day after school. I felt like I had known her my whole life! Nani was fearless and did not let anything stand in her way. I learned so much about tackling my own fears from her. How could this tiny woman who spoke no English travel all over the world visiting her kids? She didn’t care what people thought of her and she never let her language barrier hold her back.

I will miss Nani greatly at my wedding.

However, I do have a way to honor her and it will be with a very special tribute video that I am putting together. I have found so many pictures of her and cannot wait to have her be part of my special day.

I know that she will be with me in spirit and crying tears of joy for her granddaughter.

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Our Yurt to Yurt Skiing Adventure

‘Cause there’s still plenty of snow during Spring Break in MN!

After several years of talking about heading ‘Up North’ to the Boundary Waters to go Cross Country Skiing Yurt to Yurt, Fatima, Maud & I packed up our gear, hopped in the car and began an epic three night adventure!

We hadn’t had much snow in the Twin Cities area, so all three of us were just itching to get our skis on and enjoy a bit of the great outdoors!

The drive is about 6.5 hours total, so halfway there we stopped for a quick three mile hike to stretch our legs and get some fresh air in our lungs. It was pretty icy that day so we did plenty of bum -sliding down the hill for safety’s sake.

We arrived at the darling Poplar Creek Bed & Breakfast just before dusk and were heartily greeted by owners, Barbara and Ted. After getting settled into our spacious and super comfy rooms, they sent us on our way for a yummy ‘last supper’ at the Trail Center – didn’t look like much from the outside, but it was just delightful & delicious from the inside.

After a great night’s sleep and hand-brewed coffee, ‘Chef’ Barbara prepared a traditional Norwegian breakfast and Ted mapped out the next 21 miles of ‘fun’ for us.

Off we go for our first day of fun! Nine miles didn’t seem too daunting, even with 20 mph winds greeting every stride.  We were thrilled with the sounds of nothing but the swoosh of our skis amidst the beauty of the great northern Minnesota woods.

We made it to our ‘home’ for the night in just under 3 hours and after warming up our feet/hands we began to learn the intricacies of the wood stove and gas lighting from our camp guide, Jim.  After he snowmobiled away with a ‘be on the look out for moose’ last call, we settled in to a night of laughter, popping blisters, card playing  & a delicious spread of our favorite things.

And don’t forget, being out in the woods means the outhouse is your friend. At 3am in the morning, who cares about fashion: just give me a headlamp, some TP and off you go into the great unknown! Hahaha

While none of us got much sleep that night, the early morning brought about warmer temps and the desire to ‘get up and go’ as we had 12 miles to ski to the next Yurt and get back a little closer to civilization.

Day 2 proved to be quite the challenging one. We started off strong then faced a massive down hill slope that I chose to walk down vs. potentially crash. Fatima ever-so-gracefully came flying around the bend and landed at the base…just shy of the freezing cold water! As the day progressed, westarted to notice that our skis were all becoming sluggish and accumulating ice on them with every stride.  We were having to stop every 10 min or so and in essence ‘de-ice’ our skis with the pole tips or a knife. It was very frustrating to say the least and we were getting more tired and a bit nervous with every minute that passed us by. Did we have enough food if it got late, did we have matches to build a fire and stay warm, did we have headlamps to guide us through the dark, how could we call for help if needed?  And sure enough, an hour later, 2 ski poles were now broken from the constant banging of the ice and Maud was down with a sprained ankle. What should have have taken us four hours to complete ended up taking over seven. Thank goodness, Ted came looking for us as he knew something was wrong when we hadn’t arrived hours after our estimated time.  With Maud loaded up on the snowmobile, Fatima & I skied the rest of the way, she with only one pole and both collapsing with exhaustion when we finally made it ‘home.’

Warming up our homemade soup brought us great relief and I enjoyed a nice hot toddy to finish off the night…shut eye was 7:50pm!

The next morning we were up and at ’em, heading for the last ski of the day all the way back to our cars. We made it and were grateful to be back connected with the world and a hot cup of coffee for the long drive home.

Moral of the story: Be a bit more prepared when you are three gals alone in the great wilderness up north.

But would we do it again? Yeah, you ‘betcha!

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