5 Things to Try in Stillwater

After an AMAZING staycation in Stillwater, I have much to share. Anyone who has gotten a live Sarah-Reed-story before, knows that I firmly believe in the more details, the better. However, with all of the self control in the world, I give you the top 5 highlights. Here’s where to hike, where to drink, and where to eat (aka the essentials): IMG_5210

Willow River State Park: We explored a six mile trail here that was the perfect mix of grassy plains, difficult hills, and overlook views. Best of all, it led to a gorgeous waterfall {option to turn around here if 6 miles isn’t your style} and a large staircase to overlook the waterfall. We also visited William O’brien State Park the day before, which was predominantly grassy plains but was still a winner.

Charlie’s PubBrandon and I had been to this pub in the summer, and enjoyed sitting outside on the deck. Right above it is the hotel we decided to stay at this time, Water Street Inn. While the decks nice in the day, the real party is going here at night. With live Irish music on the weekends, and an intimate bar setting for other nights, you can’t go wrong. Sunday night, we were the only people at the bar, so we got to know the bartender to make his favorite drinks. Ask for the whiskey smash and an old fashioned, you won’t regret it.

IMG_5191Maple Island BrewingCan I go here everyday? I had an awesome flight consisting of an ale, maple beer, IPA, orange creamsicle, and coffee stout, Yes to everything, especially the Maple bock. A full one may have been too much, but the unique flavor was a great treat. There were two musicians playing covers (shout out to their Jbieb’s Love Yourself), which added great ambiance.  If you’re in Stillwater over the weekend, saunter over there Saturday morning for me to check out the yoga class they host- beer included and proceeds go to charity.

Tremblay’s Sweet Shop: After resisting the urge to visit Nelson’s, we wandered this quaint candy shop and I’m still dreaming of going back. There were samples, which is always a good sign, and amazing handmade truffles, turtles, brittles, and more. My bag of treats was twice the weight of IMG_5192Brandon’s, and I still see no problem with that.

Luna Rossa: Not to brag, but I know good Italian. I didn’t choose this life, it chose me. You simply do not live in Rome for four months and leave without greater expectations for pasta, wine, and fresh ingredients. With that said, Luna Rossa was the perfect place for our anniversary dinner Sunday night. Absolutely recommend the spinach and mushroom risotto topped with salmon. Add in some chianti and tiramisu, and it felt like my second home. 

Overall, 10/10 on this staycation. Stillwater’s waterfront small town vibe gives the impression you’re much farther from the Cities, when it was only a half hour commute. This allowed us to make the most of the Sunday morning- Monday afternoon trip, and be present without any stress. Explore wherever you can, it is always worth it. Let me know what you try from this list, and share where else you go!

 

Here’s to Happy

“I know you like to give gifts you can take part in,” my boyfriend Brandon said to me, as he attempted to guess what I had planned for his birthday. It’s very true. I believe experiences trump all. That’s why I’ve moved away from tangible gifts and given those close to me something we both value more, time.

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Split Rock Lighthouse

Even though birthdays are designed to be focused on the person of celebration, they tend to snowball into elaborate plans including a list of people you “probably should” invite. Think of the last weekend you had where nothing was on the agenda. Somehow, doing exactly what you want becomes a luxury.

It required a complete disregard of FOMO to skip UMN Homecoming and instead take a spontaneous trip to Grand Marais for Brandon’s birthday weekend. But camping without electricity, hiking for hours, and being removed from the noise and motion of the city was far from a downgrade,

We skipped a night of bar hopping, and instead spent an afternoon at Vine Park Brewing making our own craft beer. And instead of leaving it to the experts at Brasa, we opted for a birthday feast that evening was entirely homemade.

Yes, doing things differently has its perks.

When it comes to experiential gifts, there is an element of uncertainty. If I order a present online, I am guaranteed my expectations. Experiences? Rolling with the punches is required.

I was reminded of this this week when Brandon and I returned to the brewery to bottle our beer after it fermented for the last 2 weeks.
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Making the beer on his birthday had been great; we measured the hops for a recipe similar to our favorite IPA, Surly Furious, and while it brewed in stages we had down time to walk around St. Paul (read: and then quickly walk to the bar across the street, sorry Alchemy 365 Challenge).

For the bottling session, we brought Pizza Lucé and sampled our new beer in between cases. With a few beers overflowed, I was continuously demoted from my place in the assembly line, and instead focused my efforts on brainstorming our brewery label branding.

When 6 cases of delicious IPAs were ready to be brought to the car, we realized someone had taken Brandon’s jacket that was hanging on the coat hook. Not great, especially when the pockets included his sunglasses and work ID. This is the punch that comes with experiences. As with any day, it can be hard to overcome the hiccups.

I worried that this would overshadow the entire experience and that the bad taste left in our mouths would overpower that of the IPA. This isn’t the first time I’ve worried about this type of selective memory, because it’s only with intentional choice that positivity is our default. After a quiet car ride home, we made an intentional choice.

The great thing about experiences, is the memories cannot break, get misplaced or stolen. True happiness isn’t tangible, and it comes from people, not things. This choice was the calm after the storm of a stressful morning, of calling strangers to see if they had a coat*, of losing focus on thebeer present moment. And that’s what this beer, all 72 22 ounce bottles**, will be as well.

That’s how I finally landed on the branding for our imaginary brewery, The Gorge, and the new delicious IPA, Lotus. The label is also drawn in my mind, because this is a marketer’s idea of fun. Lotus flowers bloom after rooting and growing in mud; and I believe the best things, experiences, mindsets—and now beers—come from appreciating the work that goes into them.


*Brandon’s coat was found at a nearby bar and returned. HUGE shout out to Vine Park Brewing, Bennett’s Chops and Railhouse, and that Minnesota Nice.

**6 cases of beer is not an exaggeration, if you would like to try Lotus, please holler.