Monday, December 7, 2009

Day Tripping

Rachel sent her application to the University of Minnesota at Rochester a few weeks ago with plans to send out at least one other to Northwestern College. I know in her heart that she really wants to go to Northwestern but because it's a private school it will be more expensive and we're not sure that the curriculum is going to be strong enough for what she wants to study. We're still looking into that. So it was a little bittersweet this past week when she received an acceptance letter from UMR. Tammy and I aren't sure that she's fully bought into the idea yet and we want it to be her decision. We were actually surprised that she received her acceptance letter so quickly as the deadline to submit applications was the end of November; the date on her letter.

Last Thursday night found the three of us tree trimming and home decorating. It was the end of an era of sorts because next year when we break out the decorations Rachel will be off to college and it will be just the two of us. Our tradition has always been for Rachel and I to do the tree together while Tammy tends to the other decorations. We talked about leaving it all until she comes home on break next year but my guess is she'll be so busy seeing friends that it won't be practical. So, I savored this one last time (at least for a while) that we trimmed the tree together while listening to Christmas music and retelling the stories behind many of the ornaments.

It was Tammy's birthday Saturday but since she had to work we spent the day together Friday and celebrated it then. It was one of those days that you look back on and wish you could do it all over again and no, not because I messed it up but because it was such a fun day.

We got a mid-morning start and stopped for coffees at Starbucks a couple miles from home. Getting on the freeway Tammy programmed the Droid for Excelsior to check out its GPS navigational abilities along the way. I'm still singing that little gizmo's praises. One thing I'm curious about and I suppose I could easily find out through a search of the Droid forum is if it will route me around congested traffic. My guess is it does given that it gets its data from Google Maps but I'm not certain. Traffic was light as we got on 35W and drove the 30 miles to our destination so it didn't matter.

We got up to Excelsior and stepped out into mid teens weather then went about checking out the many shops that line Water Street. There were a few antique places which don't interest either of us much but there's also a nice mix of home decore and clothing stores as well as restaurants. We spent a few hours in and out of shops before coming to rest at Jake O'Connor's Public House for a late lunch.  I think we'd both like to visit Jake's again, maybe for dinner next time.

Rather than leave for home after lunch I wondered if she was up for an hour long drive to Stillwater for more of the same. We haven't done enough day trips like this lately and I think we both wanted to make the most of it. Tammy liked the idea and it actually worked out well as she had an hour long conference call she was supposed to be a part of at 2:30 so she spent the drive on the phone in addition to the clock at work from the passenger seat.

It's been a few years since we've toured Stillwater and never had we been there in Winter; it's usually a summer afternoon drive for us. It's a lot like Excelsior but rather than being a lake town, it's a river town with lots of shops and restaurants. We worked our way up the block against the late day cold and a brisk wind then ducked inside Northern Vineyards Winery to sample some wines. $5 gets you a sampling of ten different wines and your money is refunded if you purchase a bottle. We bought more than enough to recover our $10 'tasting' fee. The woman who served us mentioned that many of the shops in town close by 6:00 so we gathered up our packages and continued up the sidewalk.

A block north of the winery is Stillwater Art Guild Gallery where we took our time looking at the eclectic mix of work from local artists. Randahl Raduenz was kind enough to offer to give us a tour behind the scenes where a lot of the magic happens and showed us many other pieces that couldn't be displayed because of a lack of wall space in the gallery. Randahl's work is unique in that he will often paint images within his scenes; images that aren't apparent at first glance but once you begin to look deeper they appear. We'll be back to visit but next time with an eye toward bringing something home with us.

Walking back to our car on the south end of the city we decided to keep the day/night going and stop by the Mall of America on the way home. Christmas is always my favorite time to be at the mall. Sure, there's a lot more people there this time of year but the mall is so large that it absorbs them well. I've never felt it to be overcrowded. My only disappointment was with the new decorations they've switched to this year. I don't get a sense of warmth from them as they're mostly blue and silver with some flocked greenery. Nothing like years past with the large bulbs of Christmas-ee colors.

Throughout the day we'd been in search of an artificial tree or two for our basement to bring some holiday cheer down there but we still hadn't found one...or two. That would change once we got to the mall where we spied just what we were looking for. We brought our finds out to the truck then went back inside to stroll around and maybe knock off some stocking-stuffer items on our list for Rachel.

We had one last stop at Target for ornaments for our new trees before we'd arrive back home 12 hours after leaving.  It was a full day but surprisingly we both still had energy to set up the trees and trim them.  I can't think of a better way to spend a day.  I was telling Tammy how years ago before we ever met, December 5th was for some reason always a very good day for me, to the point where I had singled it out unlike any other day of the year just for that reason; because it stood out.  How was I to know that it was Tammy's birthday?

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