IF THERE IS JUST ONE WORD THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN SOMEONE ASKS ME TO DESCRIBE ITALY, IT’S “EXQUISITE.” FROM ITS LONG MEDITERRANEAN COASTLINE WITH SPECTACULAR VIEWS OF SOME OF THE MOST VARIED AND SCENIC LANDSCAPES ON EARTH, TO ITS CULTURE STEEPED IN ART, FAMILY, ARCHITECTURE, MUSIC AND FOOD, TO ITS ANCIENT RUINS—AND HOME TO SOME OF THE MOST FAMOUS STRUCTURES IN THE WORLD, INCLUDING THE COLOSSEUM AND THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA—HOW COULD ITALY NOT BE DESCRIBED AS EXQUISITE?
First Stop: Rome (Roma)
Consider the swirling traffic and exuberance of life in the Italian capital city and it’s easy to believe “all roads lead to Rome.” The city can overwhelm you with its millennia of history, unrivaled art collections and neighborhoods that feel like small villages. When you combine the enviable marriage of carpe diem (seize the day) and la dolce vita (the sweet life), you’ve got a city that will knock you out with excitement.
FOR MANY PEOPLE IN SOUTHEASTERN MINNESOTA, FALL IS A FAVORITE TIME OF THE YEAR. THE LONG, HOT DAYS OF SUMMER GIVE WAY TO AUTUMN’S COOLER TEMPERATURES, THE LEAVES BEGIN TO CHANGE, AND THE SMELL OF WOOD SMOKE AND FRESH APPLES FILL THE AIR. WE ADMIRE THE CHANGE IN SEASONS AND PERHAPS THERE IS NO BETTER WAY TO CELEBRATE THAN AT WABASHA-KELLOGG’S SEPTOBERFEST SEPTEMBER 7 TO OCTOBER 27.
What began in 2007 as a way to add something extra to the grand opening of the National Eagle Center in Wabasha has grown into a seven-week event with hundreds of family-friendly activities, events, unique shopping experiences and more. “This is our biggest event of the year,” says Christina Dawson, executive director of the Wabasha-Kellogg Chamber of Commerce. “It is our opportunity to showcase our community for fall.”
EXPLOSION OF FALL COLOR
Dawson says many people come to SeptOberfest to see the artistic displays of fall splendor sprinkled throughout the city. Crafters, artists and farmers use thousands of pumpkins, cornstalks, flowers, hay bales, gourds and squash to create fun fall scenes along the winding Mississippi River and majestic bluffs of the historic river town of Wabasha.
FOR ME, TRAVEL—MOST OF WHICH IS SOLO—IS VERY PERSONAL. IT IS AN ESCAPE, AN ADVENTURE AND A JOURNEY OF PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. I REALIZED, AFTER TALKING TO MANY WOMEN IN VARIOUS CIRCLES, THAT I MAY BE A BIT OF AN ANOMALY. TRAVELING ALONE WAS NEVER A BIG DEAL TO ME, BUT IT IS TO MANY WOMEN.
I took my first big road trip to Austin, Texas. It was after an ugly breakup. Instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for myself, I reached out to a few outof- state friends to let them know that was looking to drive south for the week. I asked who wanted to have me as a visitor, and I wasn’t ready to say why. I had three responses within a few minutes, which was a boost to my self-confidence. Soon, I packed up my suitcase and my dog and started driving south.
The questions I started getting from family and friends went something like, “Aren’t you scared?” or “What if something happens to you?” My first thought in response to these questions was: “Would you ever ask a guy these questions?” I don’t know why these societal disparities still exist, but it’s not the 1950s. Lastly, dangers lurk in our own backyards as much as the next town over or several states away. So, respectfully, I kept driving the 21 hours there and back. I had a wonderful time and, as you can tell, am still alive.
CORN ON THE COB AND WATERMELON, TWO FOODS THAT SURELY SAY ITS SUMMERTIME IN MINNESOTA, ARE CELEBRATED EACH YEAR AT FUN-FILLED FESTIVALS IN TWO AREA TOWNS. NOW IN ITS 49TH YEAR, THE PLAINVIEW LIONS CLUB WILL AGAIN HOST CORN ON THE COB DAYS, AUGUST 15-19. THE FIVE-DAY EVENT, WHICH ORIGINALLY BEGAN AS A WAY FOR THE PLAINVIEW COMMUNITY TO GATHER TOGETHER AND CELEBRATE THE BEGINNING OF THE SWEET CORN HARVEST, IS FILLED WITH ACTIVITIES, MUSIC AND GRAND PARADE AND A GIVEAWAY OF SWEET CORN THAT JUST MAY BE THE LARGEST CORN FEED EVER.
CORN ON THE COB DAYS SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
The event kicks off Wednesday night with performances by gospel groups. The groups will perform in a tent set up in the parking lot at the Plainview American Legion. Thursday night, weather permitting, the film “Cars 3” will be shown beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran School playground. On Friday, from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., there will be an antique tractor display at Park Side Elder Care, and in the evening, the firemen’s dance, featuring JT and the Gunslingers, begins at 8 p.m. outside Plainview Liquor Store.
There is lots of family fun scheduled for Saturday, including a fun run, beanbag tournament, kid’s games—such as a three-legged race, ice cream eating contest and corn cob toss—as well as a kid’s pedal pull, talent show and a kid’s water fight. From 8 p.m. to midnight, the band IV Play, from Mankato, will perform classic rock favorites at Kim’s Saloon & Grill.
DEEP DOWN INSIDE ME IS A PASSION TO PLANT IN EVERY WOMAN’S HEART THE FUNDAMENTAL LIFE VALUE THAT SHE IS LOVABLE, WORTHY AND SIGNIFICANT. AS A CHILD I KNEW MY LOVE FOR PEOPLE TRANSCENDED THE BOUNDARIES OF MY BACKYARD. WHEN I WAS 5 YEARS OLD, I REMEMBER TELLING MY MOM THAT GOD HAD CALLED ME TO HELP PEOPLE. I DIDN’T QUITE UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANT UNTIL FATHER’S DAY 2007 WHEN I MISCARRIED BABY LOFTUS AT 13 WEEKS GESTATION. ON THAT DAY, A PATH WAS LAID OUT FOR ME THAT WOULD LEAD ME TO GRADUATING WITH A MASTER’S DEGREE IN COUNSELING AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES.
MY HEART KNEW
When the opportunity presented itself earlier this year for me to spend 15 days in Uganda providing mental health care for women of Kyampisi, my heart said, “Go.” My mind said many other things, but my heart did not hesitate. It knew I needed to go to Africa.
VETERAN ROADTRIPPER MEG HAFDAHL LOVES PACKING THE FAMILY’S RV AND HITTING THE OPEN ROAD WITH HUSBAND, LUKE, AND SONS FOX, 10, AND DEXTER, 6. THE COUPLE BOUGHT THEIR RIG A YEAR AGO AND SPENT LAST SUMMER EXPLORING.
“The boys were big enough, and we wanted it to be a summer memory they looked back on with nostalgia,” says the Rochester mom. “Last summer we went to the Wisconsin Dells, as well as the Iron Range, Kamp Dels and a few other Minnesota places. We loved it!”
THE JOURNEY, NOT JUST THE DESTINATION
Sarah Larson always heads to the family’s lake cabin near Itasca State Park with sons Reed, 6, and Trey, 4, for two weeks each summer. Larson has learned how to approach the five-hour drive for best results with her tykes. She packs a bag full of library books, sticker books, Matchbox cars, crayons and paper and props it in the back seat for whenever the boys get restless.
NO SPRING BREAK TRAVEL PLANS? NO WORRIES, THERE ARE PLENTY OF REGIONAL OPTIONS. HERE ARE SOME CLOSE-TO-HOME IDEAS.
FINDING BIG FUN IN NATURE
Pack some snacks and hit the road. No need to go far to find big fun in the outdoors.
Head to Whitewater State Park in neighboring St. Charles, urges interpretive naturalist Sara Holger, and check out the flowers coming up. Grab a flower ID sheet at the visitor center and hit the park on your very own treasure hunt, finding a variety of flowers as you go.
Hiking is another big hit at Whitewater in the spring, as is trout fishing and morel mushroom hunting. You can even help plant trees at Whitewater sometime in April. Check out the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website (dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/whitewater).
MANY OF US WHO LIVE IN ROCHESTER PASS BY ORONOCO AND PINE ISLAND ON A REGULAR BASIS WHEN DRIVING TO OR FROM THE TWIN CITIES ON U.S. HIGHWAY 52. HAVE YOU EVER TAKEN THE PINE ISLAND OR ORONOCO EXITS TO EXPLORE THE AREA? HERE ARE THREE PLACES YOU CAN CHECK OUT NORTH OF ROCHESTER.
BETTY SUE’S BETTER BREW CAFÉ
Betty Sue’s Better Brew Café is a bustling coffee shop in the heart of Pine Island. On a Saturday morning, it is filled with people chatting, having a hearty breakfast and drinking coffee or espresso drinks. The cafe offers homemade meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as homemade desserts such as pies and cakes.
Owner Bobbi Jo Kennedy says she bought the cafe in July 2017. “My husband is from Pine Island, and my girls are getting older, and it seemed like a good time. We wanted good food for Pine Island people.” Kennedy has lived in Pine Island for more than 20 years and her family–including her husband, their three daughters and her mother–also work at the cafe with her.
For several years now, my daughter and I have taken a vacation together around the time of my birthday in January—a welcome reprieve from the brutal MINNESOTA winters. In January 2017, we headed to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.
Our travel there took a long time and included both a plane and a bus ride. We arrived after dark in Cahuito, the resort town we were staying in, and we were famished.
I’ve always been a bit Ireland-obsessed. I soak up every movie or book I can find that’s placed there, engross myself in Celtic mythology and always seem to be adding new Irish artists to my playlists. When I was 17, I bought my first Ireland calendar and reveled in the pictures of the cliffs and countryside. Each year after that, I bought a new version, saying I would stop once I finally booked my trip.
After almost 20 years of dreaming and watching flight costs, I decided last fall that 2017 was the year to make that dream happen. As a single mom, that wasn’t the easiest call to make. Work and child schedules had to be negotiated; money had to be tucked away. But I was determined. I even picked up a second job solely to make sure money would be earmarked for the trip.
TAKING THE LEAP
I was finally going! Now the big decision: Did I have the guts to go alone? Sure, why not? Solo travel can be a blast, and some tour groups cater specifically to those going it alone. Bringing the kids along just wasn’t in the budget at this point.