Our Fall in Wisconsin

Fall in Wisconsin is absolutely stunning!  It’s what you see in books, magazines and on TV. The rolling hills with orange, red, yellow and brown leaves all making a perfect autumn scene.  I am so beyond blessed to live here this time of year (maybe not so much in a few weeks when the bright colors go away and the cold sets in) but for now, it’s pretty!  We have been taking full advantage of the weather and been able to get outside and do some activities!

A few weeks ago I had to go to Illinois for work, so the afternoon I left, Adam took George golfing with some friends.  They had a great day for it and the boys had an absolute blast!

golf

The first weekend in October up in Stone Lake, Wisconsin is Cranberry Fest.  Adam’s parents have a cabin up in Stone Lake so it’s become a tradition for us to go up for the festival.  Stone Lake is an unincorporated town, but during Cranberry Fest over 10,000 people fill the streets.  Vendors come from all over to sell their goods.  There are food and drink vendors (the good stuff), live music, a parade and a soap box derby for the kids.  This year we had incredible weather and were able to meet up with a lot of great friends!  If you’ve ever met my George, then you know who the love of his life is… and we were so lucky to see her and her family at Cranberry Fest.  We also stopped to watch the Badger game at a local tavern.  Thankfully it was the afternoon and entirely acceptable to have your 2 y/o belly up to the bar.
cranberry-fest

What Fall isn’t complete with a visit to the Apple Orchard and Pumpkin Patch?  We live in the country and were fortunate enough to have a great little Apple Orchard within a few miles of our house.  Grandma, Brit, George and I went to the orchard on Sunday and picked out the perfect pumpkin and apples for Apple Crisp.  (Which we promptly ate with supper after Gram made it!).

George adored the goats and sheep… but I think his favorite was the train.  He could have played on it all.day.long.  He was a bit disappointed that the train didn’t move 🙂  It’s hard to explain to a 2 year old that the train doesn’t have an engine and can’t move…  Since he was little he’s always been able to pickup on the faintest train whistle.  I think he’d make a cute little train conductor for Halloween!  (If I can get him off the idea of being a “bad guy..”)

orchard

Since we live in the woods, we had to take advantage of all the leaves on the ground!  We raked them up (over and over) and jumped in them and then had a big leaf fight!  It was a perfect way to spend a few hours.  George definitely loves playing in the leaves!

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We have really been having a great time with the nice weather this time of year!  What do you and your families like to do in the fall?  Are you as lucky as we are with the amazing weather and gorgeous trees?  I would love to hear more!!

 

 

 

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Exploring: Afton, MN

One of my favorite small towns to visit is Afton, MN.  Just across the river (and a little ways down the road) from Hudson is another great little river town for exploring.

Most of my day trips are spent doing one of two things, eating or shopping.  My trip to Afton is no different.  What started as an innocent afternoon outing earlier this Spring, has turned into a complete crush on a small town.

My current go to shop in Hastings, Eye Candy (see Hastings Exploring), has a sister shop in Afton. I set out to photograph the crap out of it because I love the place and the owner is completely badass.   I think everyone I know should go support local businesses like Eye Candy.  EXCEPT, I found out after I photographed but before I posted, that Eye Candy is closing its doors in Afton.  So bittersweet!  While I’m super pumped that these awesome ladies are going to continue to do great things with their Hastings store, I’m so bummed they won’t be open in Afton anymore!!

Just across the street tucked behind Baglio’s (clothing/chocolate) is The Foundry.  We stumbled upon the Foundry on one of our many trips to Afton.   The porch outside of the shop is SO inviting!  I just adore this store.  Whenever you walk in, the lovely ladies are always so kind and helpful.  I am still trying to convince them to come to my house and stage it.  You will find industrial/modern/french/farmhouse style home goods in the store. Some things are new, some are home made, some are upcycled.  The store is so well put together!  Oneof my favorite items are their picture frames!  Their unique sizes make for a perfect addition to a gallery wall!.  Stop in and check them out.  You will love it!!

 

Just down the street from the Foundry is a little Red house.   When you first drive by (as you’ll see in the photos) you may simply think this is a residence.  Let me assure you, this is not a normal house!  Open the last weekend of the month and during special Vintage Crawl weekends, this house comes to life and is called Dwell!  Vendors take up on the front lawn, and turn this house into a gorgeous shop.  Inside you will find furniture, photos, lights, pictures, desks, knick-knacks, globes, maps, jewelry, candles and son on!  During the Vintage Crawl weekends there are food trucks. It’s quite the site to see and a great reason to travel to Afton!!

Dwell
Vintage Lights/Rake/Shelving
Handcrafted Table and Rehabbed chairs

If after shopping you are starving or simply need a cocktail, Afton also has several restaurants where you can sit down and relax.  What makes them even better is most of them have great little outdoor patios!  Nothing beats sitting outside on a great summer day here in the MN/WI area!

Restaurants in Afton:

Swirl
Lumberyard Pub
Current

And by FAR the best reason to come to Afton?  Selma’s.  Selma’s Ice Cream has been a staple in Afton for years (they were closed for a while, but reopened in 2012).

George and I took advantage of a little afternoon sunshine and stopped and picked up some ice cream and then headed over to the park.

I love getting to venture out to small towns close to home!  It has been so great exploring towns both new and old, meeting new people and finding some great little shops and restaurants along the way.  Where should we go next??

XOXO

Kristen

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Exploring: Willow River State Park – Hudson, WI

We are blessed with one of the most amazing parks in St Croix County, WI.  Resting just outside of Hudson sits a stunning State Park with endless options of things to do.  This park has been in my back yard my entire lift (literally, I grew up less than a mile away) and I never took advantage of all the great things it had to offer until the last 5 years.

“With nearly 3,000 acres of prairie, forests and panoramic river scenery, Willow River State Park offers year-round recreation opportunities in western Wisconsin. The park is about five miles northeast of Hudson and has a campground, a boat launch and a 400-foot beach and picnic area centered on 172-acre Little Falls Lake.”  (Side note: the lake is drained right now as they are preparing a major dam project) – WI DNR Website

I started coming here to hike a few years ago and have only grown more and more fond of the park with every visit.  I also met one of my closest friends at the park.  I was on the fence about joining a bootcamp and the instructor was leading hikes at the park and then a fitness class after the hike. I put on my girl pants and came by myself and instantly made a connection with a gal and her daughter.  A new friendship was born and with that came many other awesome adventures!  You never know what (or who) you might find when you come to the park.

There are 12 hiking trails in the park and many connect up to campsites as well as gorgeous scenery and spectacular views.  The trails are both paved and crushed rock.  I usually bring my jogging stroller and can push George with no problems on either trail.  I would recommend a heavier duty stroller or even a backpack if bringing small children and doing a longer hike.

At the beach is a gorgeous brand-new beach house and playground for the kids to play (or for me to dread because I just want to hike and George just wants to play!).   With picnic tables and grills throughout the park, you really cannot go wrong with a day at Willow.   The lake is currently drained because they are working on a major dam project.  The sand is still there to play in, but no swimming at the beach (you can wade by the falls though) for at least 1-2 summers.

Beach House with a Shelter and Picnic Tables
Playground with activities for kids of all ages

The trail(s) I hike most often are the Green (Little Falls Trail) and Blue Trails (Willow Falls Trail).  When you take the Green to the Blue trail, this takes you to the Falls that are nestled in the park.  The Green Trail starts off at the beach parking lot.

Paved Trail (Green Trail)

One of the big draws to Willow River State Park is the camping.  As you navigate through the park, you pass many different camp sites. Some have some serious setups with campers, cooking equipment, coolers, etc.  And others keep it simple.

A little tent I passed while walking – these folks kept it simple

In order to get to Willow Falls, you have to move from the Green Trail to the Blue Trail. The blue trail is a bit more rugged and is crushed rock vs paved.  Its a bit more hilly and more “hiking” vs “walking” trail.  However, I regularly pass families with younger children and several folks (like myself) who are pushing strollers. Again, you will need a heavier stroller to make your life easier on this trail.  Let me just say, it is so absolutely worth it if you hike this trail! At the end of the trail you get to Willow Falls.. (which you can get to multiple ways, but this just happens to be my favorite!)

Willow Falls – Willow River State Park, Hudson, WI

Once you get to the falls, as you can see you can navigate onto the rocks and cool off in the water. I am not one you will ever see out there, but as you can tell there are several people doing this.  I just think when you’re dealing with water, it’s dangerous and you never know when you could get swept away (call me old and dull, but I prefer to play it safe here!).

Another activity you can do while at Willow is Rock Climbing.  You bring all of your own equipment and will need to have some experience climbing because it is not only dangerous but also a challenging wall to climb.  It certainly didn’t stop these guys though! I am always so impressed with the people who are so talented/fit and accomplish this.

Look close and you will see the climber hanging from the rock

I mentioned there are multiple ways you can get to Willow Falls.  You can park at the parking lot on top of the hill (near the entrance) and navigate down the stairs to the falls.  However, you can also navigate up those same stairs which is very challenging, but an excellent workout.  I had my doubts, but George and I climbed the stairs and again, it is so worth the view at the top!

View over the State Park at the top of the Stairs near Willow Falls

I could just sit here and be at peace for hours on end. (Plus I’m usually still dying from climbing the stairs and need that much time to recover).   It is quiet and serene and the view is simply breath taking!  It is all right here in St Croix County and so many people have no idea what they are missing out on.

Apparently after all the stair climbing my sweet George wanted more.. He really did.  He was all about climbing stairs..and not even halfway (I begged repeatedly) he wanted to make it to the top.

My little adventurer

We survived all of the steps, both up and down and navigated our way back over the falls.  This is the view if you look West instead of East (Opposite of the falls).

Usually you might see a fisherman or two out here trying to catch a fish for supper.  Its amazing to watch the raging rapids on one side and see this nice, calm river flowing on the other. Nature is certainly incredible.

Willow isn’t just a summer State Park either!  In the winter they offer several groomed cross country ski trails as well as Snowshoeing trails (although you have to be very careful to be sure you’re on the snowshoe trail as the skiiers will give you dirty looks even just trying to get to your trails).  (It’s a brown trail if that helps!).

We managed to get out one time this winter to do a little snowshoeing!  George got to ride along in his little sled (which thanks Jen for giving us that years ago! It has been so handy!).

At the parking lot of the beach house there is also a Nature Center.  Here, you can get souvenirs, sunscreen and any other small item you might need to make it for the day or weekend (plus there are plenty of gas stations nearby if you leave the park).  The nature center also has great educational activities for children of different ages to get children engaged and learning about the outdoors.

Nature Center
Kids activities – pick up at the Nature Center

Whether the patio is as outdoors as you get or if you’re a rugged outback sleep under the stars kind of camper, Willow truly offers a wide range of options of things to do!  It’s $8 for the day if you’re a WI resident, $11 for out of state vehicles and $28 for a yearly pass if you’re a WI resident.  We are there enough times a year to make up for the cost!

Trail Map – you can get a copy at the gate or online

XOXO

Kristen

Wander Mum
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Exploring: Downtown Hastings, MN

I had so much fun with last week’s post about Hudson, WI that I thought i would try to make this a weekly series where I explore a small town and share some of the great adventures I have along the way.

Last Thanksgiving my friend Vicki asked me to run the Thanksgiving Gobble Gait 8K with her in Hastings.  I had never spent much time there and just figured it would be like any run.  Let me say, it was one of the most beautiful runs I have done!  All of the money from the race is donated to the Hastings Family Service which serves the local community.  What started as a small run has now grown to over 2000 runners.

Post Race Photo with Vicki (right) and her friend Stacie (center)

Although it was cold and went, it was SO WORTH it!  Just being able to say I did it and knowing my race fee went to someone in need felt pretty darn good!

The race started and finished on Main Street in Hastings and although it was cold and wet, I fell madly in love with Main Street!  There are tons of cute little shops and restaurants.  Its very quaint and a nice little day trip. From the Downtown Business Association of Hastings, MN, ” The Historic Downtown Business District of Hastings, Minnesota. You’ll find charming shops that feature; Antiques, Collectibles, Gifts, Fashion, Imports, Toys, Pottery, Jewelry and many one of a kind specialty items and services. Most of our shops are located in preserved historic buildings dating back to the 1800’s.”

Right now they are redoing some sections of Main Street so my photos may be a little limited in the angles as I was simply trying to photo without all the yellow tape and orange cones.   However, even though it was under construction we were still able to navigate to all the shops with no trouble.

My friend Jayme has super awesome taste and had told me about Eye Candy Refind, so I HAD to check it out.  (If you’ve ever been in the Loft at Viva Voce Salon in Hudson, they have several stunning pieces from Eye Candy!!) After a quick trip to their shop in Hastings, I was sold!!  First of all I LOVE the owners.  Super bad ass ladies who run a great shop with gorgeous pieces!  They are SUPER friendly and totally willing to help you with anything.  (and I mean anything, I’m still looking for my card catalog and they are too!).   I ended up buying a gorgeous buffet my first trip there and continue to get inspiration every time I go to their shop!

My buffet table from Eye Candy

I absolutely adore the signs, furniture and decor in Eye Candy Refind. They also do painting classes in the Hastings Store as well if you want to learn how to chalk paint.  Additionally they share TONS of new pieces on their Instagram (eye_candy_refind) and Facebook Pages.  If you’re looking for a one of a kind, quality piece at an affordable price, check out Eye Candy!!!

If you’re someone who wants to DIY your own furniture pieces then stop into one of the many antique shops in town!

A few others:

Second Street Antique Mall

If home decor isn’t your thing, they also have cute little clothing shops as well!  One that is always a stop when we are there is Lah-Tee-Dah Boutique.  They have adorable clothes at very reasonable prices!  You will also find that unique piece you wouldn’t find online or at a mall.  That’s what makes small town shopping so special.  You don’t look like everyone else and you’re supporting a local business.

Other shopping locations for gifts and goodies:

Mississippi Clayworks

Let’s be honest, after all that shopping I’m usually starving and (in my opinion) the BEST place in town is the Busted Nut.  We completely stumbled into the Busted Nut on a whim when we were picking up my buffet from Eye Candy.  It was the best decision ever!!  Fresh peanuts when you sit down and cold beers!  But better than that is the food.  I have been there several times now and I am never disappointed.  Last time we were there, a friend said “This is the best mushroom swiss burger I have ever had!”  I typically order the Chicken, Bacon Ranch Wrap with waffle fries and season sour cream and it’s AMAZING!!!  (See below)

Although the Busted Nut happens to be my favorite, there are lots of other choices while in the downtown area.

Restaurants:

The Onion Grille (I’ve heard this place is awesome too!)

Karl’s Red Rock Cafe (Breakfast and Lunch)

Spiral Pizza

While I was walking around taking photos, I saw the sweetest scene in Reissner’s Meat and Grocery. I was transported back 50 years. (or what I imagine life to be like 50 years ago).  Two older gentlemen were standing in the business enjoying a conversation and a coke.  It was the most refreshing, simple moment they were sharing.  They didn’t have cell phones out, they weren’t distracted by anything but what the other person was saying.  It truly warmed my heart.

One thing that always catches my eye when I’m in town is the Meyer Company Sign (Carhartt, Levis, shopping).  It again, takes me back to a time before modern technology.  And while I don’t know the history, I imagine it was put up in the early years of Jc Penney, Montgomery Wards, Sears Roebuck Co.  Just the lettering takes me back to flipping through catalogs at grandmas house.

 

As you find your way out of town, take a minute to see the beautiful new bridge that was built in 2014.  It’s stunning at night and beautiful during the day.

Hastings is only a short drive from the Twin Cities on Highway 61 South, and about 45 minutes from Western, WI.  I love any excuse to get down here to shop and eat!  (and there may or may not be a casino stop or a stop at Ellsworth Creamery on the way! Pretty sure we’ll be checking out Ellsworth in the near future so I can go back for more fresh cheese curds!)

I hope you are able to seek out new adventures in Hastings or any of the towns I mention along the way.  It’s such a fun journey for me to check out new places and bring friends along for the ride!

XOXO

Kristen

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