Escape to Northern Minnesota

Jonathan and I found time to escape from the farm for 2 1/2 days this summer. This was the first summer vacation without any of our kids along, so it was pretty spontaneous. It had been awhile since we visited the North Shore and Duluth, Minnesota, so we decided that would be our destination.

Since the timing of our trip was totally weather dependent, we didn’t have advanced reservations anywhere, and ended up choosing a hotel in Two Harbors. We had been through this town on another trip up the North Shore, but hadn’t stayed there. We really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of Two Harbors instead of the frenetic pace of the Duluth Harbor area.

We left home after 6:00 pm on Wednesday evening, and arrived at our hotel right around midnight. This is what happens when you need to complete a few things on the farm before you can head out the door. Thursday we went to my niece’s house in Duluth and took her out for lunch. She recommended the Duluth Grill so we tried it out. We weren’t disappointed…but if you go, go hungry!

After walking around the Leif Erickson rose garden, and wading in Lake Superior, we took Jenni back to her place so she could make it to work in time. Jonathan and I went back up to Two Harbors, and planned our next adventure. We decided on Gooseberry State Park. The parking and falls area was free…bonus! We walked first to the middle and lower falls, then headed up to the upper falls. We went in the evening, so the light was beautiful, and it wasn’t really crowded.

Upper Falls Gooseberry State Park

On our way back to the hotel that night, we decided to go down to the harbor in Two Harbors and see what was there. We noticed people walking down the break wall, so Jonathan encouraged me to do the same. The water was so calm and the temperatures were perfect. There were seagulls swimming near the break wall, even though people were walking close by. After taking this photo, we watched a ship depart Two Harbors, which was pretty cool.

Seagull in Lake Superior, Two Harbors

On Friday, we decided to do our sight-seeing in the morning before heading down to Duluth to see my sister and brother-in-law who had come to help my niece with a house project. We headed up the shore towards Split Rock Lighthouse. It had rained the during the night, and fog was rolling in off Lake Superior in places which made the views really cool. We pulled over to walk up a look-out along a trail, and marveled that this was just as much a part of the Minnesota landscape as the prairies are that we call home.

Looking North along Lake Superior

When we arrived at Split Rock, we paid the admittance fee, and decided to follow the guided tour before heading out on the self guided portion. We learned a lot of the background history, which helped the self guided portion make sense. This is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the United States, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to take a few. Just to warn you…there are 171 steps down to the lake, which means you need to walk 171 steps back up again. It really wasn’t that bad, especially when there were places along the way where you could pause and take more photos.

Split Rock Lighthouse

Even though this was a mini-vacation, and we packed a lot of sight seeing into it, we came home feeling refreshed. It’s worth taking a couple of days to escape the crazy pace of farming to take a breather!

Wordless Wednesday – A Trip to the Zoo

Jelly Fish Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

On Monday, Jonathan and I presented at a conference in Omaha. What is the one recommendation from most people on what to do with our fun day? Head to the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. We weren’t disappointed! This is just one of the 359 photos I took at the zoo yesterday.

Wordless Wednesday – Lilies

Lilies of the Field

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Matthew, 6:28-29


Wordless Wednesday: Flavian Amphitheater

Flavian Amphitheater Pozzuoli Italy

Pozzuoli, Italy has many great sites to explore. The Flavian Amphitheater was thought to have been built by the same architects who constructed the Roman Colosseum. This amphitheater was the third largest Roman Colosseum built.

30 Things I Love: Clouds


I’ve been accused of walking around with my head in the clouds, but sometimes I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I love watching cloud formations changing as they move across the sky. The bonus is when the sun kisses the clouds as it sets.

The photo above was taken when Anna and I were on our way home from an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. When you’re heading west in prairie country, it is impossible to miss a gorgeous sunset. Sometimes I try to get a photo out the windshield with my cell phone when I’m at a stop sign, but other times, the sky calls for the “good” camera and pulling over onto a gravel road to get out of the van to get the right shot. This was one of those pull over and use the good camera nights.

Our willingness to pull over and enjoy the beauty of the clouds and the sunset got me to thinking…how many times do we rush through life, and never notice the beauty that surrounds us? Anna and I could have all kinds of excuses to keep going the night I took this photo. Her appointments at the clinic were exhausting, and we were both tired from the travel. It had been a long couple of days. Instead, we were both willing to pull over and document the beauty in the skies in a stop and smell the roses kind of way.

Life is hard, and it can really get you down. It’s okay to stop every once in awhile and look around at the clouds in the sky, and be thankful.

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky. ~Rabindranath Tagore


Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Day 5: My Heritage


Day 7: Black Velvet for Photography

Day 8: Strong Coffee and Strong Hairspray

Day 9: Peacefulness

Day 10: Winter’s First Snow

Day 11: Freedom

Day 12: Dairy

Day 13: Jonathan

Day 14: Coffee

Day 15: Seasons

Day 16: Scones

Day 17: #AgNerds

Day 18: Playing in the Dirt

Day 19: Friends

Day 20: My Church Choir Family

Day 21: OxyClean

Day 22: Small Town Celebrations

Day 23: Clouds

Click here to go to Holly Spangler’s blog, and see the link for other 30 Day Challenge Bloggers



30 Things I Love: Black Velvet for Photography

A few years ago, when I started taking photos of more than family and sunsets, I read a tip about using black velvet for a back drop. The next time I was in a fabric store, I purchased 1 yard of black velvet. I love how it makes objects pop when they are placed on it.

So, why black velvet? The way the fibers lay on the fabric prevents velvet from reflecting light back at the camera. The background then becomes a nice, solid color. In the photo below, you can see how the fabric absorbs the light. Black Velvet for Photography

When I’m taking a photo of a smaller object, I usually throw the velvet on one of my counter height kitchen chairs. This becomes a mini mobile photography studio. I can move the chair around to get the best light, and it is super quick to set up. All things that make an impromptu photo session at midnight go quite smoothly…which may or may not have happened in the making of this post.

This next photo shows how I am using the back of the chair as the back drop, but left enough fabric on the seat so that I could have the same solid color all around my porcelain creamer. The contrast is good, and the lines around the creamer are crisp. If you plan on taking photos of larger items, or a number of items at the same time, I would go with a larger piece of velvet.

Mini Mobile Photography Studio

I use this technique when I am taking photos of something with a busy pattern, or something I want to isolate, making the subject the only thing you see. When I took the photo of the Shout Stain Remover a few days ago, I used the black velvet because the can was pretty busy visually. Here, I took a tighter shot of my creamer. I like how clean everything looks, and how you are focusing on the details of the creamer instead being distracted by a busy or dirty background.

Using Black Velvet for Photoraphy

What are some of your favorite photography hints? Do you have a DSLR, or a point and shoot? What are some of your favorite things to take photos of?

Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote


Day 6: Black Velvet for Photography

Click here to go to Holly Spangler’s blog, and see the link for other 30 Day Challenge Bloggers