Five Years of E&C

I miss the ocean. I think anyone who has lived on the coast knows what I'm talking about. Childhood summers spent with sand-caked toes, hair softened by the salty breeze, and a boogie board constantly strapped to your wrist. Memories that stay by your side, beckoning you back home when you hear a distant seagull or put your ear up to a shell.

No matter how hard I try and convince Minnesota to move closer to the ocean, the fact remains that it's smack dab in the middle of the country. But then there's Lake Superior. 
photo by my sister Sarah, taken June 2011

The mini-ocean of the midwest. My saving grace. The largest of the Great Lakes, when you look across towards the horizon you can almost pretend it is the sea. Although it has been two full years since I've dipped my toes in the salt water from home, I am happy of all my excursions to the North Shore these past five years.

Five years?

Five years! Although that may look more like ten years, E and I just passed the five year mark in our life together as Mr. and Mrs. P. And in celebration, we took a short trip up North, just like we did on our honeymoon. With E's airport work schedule we only managed one night away, but it was worth it.

Our adventures started with our annual stop by our favorite local bakery: Wuollet Bakery. (red velvet cupcake is our favorite, but they also have tons of pastries and other baked goods)
 And look at that. It was raining, just like it was on August 4th, 2007. The trip to Duluth is about 3 hours from the cities, and our destination of Beaver Bay was north of that yet. We stopped along the way a few times to take in the sights, so I don't really remember how long it took.

Since check-in at our lodge wasn't until 4pm we decided to head out on a hike in the afternoon. Well, that "little hike" turned into a 6 mile loop on the Superior Hiking Trail. Here's a map: Split Rock River Loop

About halfway through the hike we came across what is known as the Split Rock. Rumor has it this is the origin of the name for the river we were hiking along, the Split Rock River, and the famous Split Rock Lighthouse.


We found this precarious little bridge kinda fun. There was a sign that said only one person on the bridge at a time. E happened to glance down at his watch and noticed it was just about the time we were walking down the aisle 5 years ago. What a romantic. And the bridge was built in 2007! Feel free to roll your eyes ; )

The end of the hike took us up on the bluffs overlooking Lake Superior. This reminded me of my many hikes at Wolf Ridge, which was just up the road.

Doesn't this picture just make you want to sing "Climb Every Mountain ...." from the Sound of Music?

Finally, around 6:30 or 7 we wrapped up our hike and headed to Cove Point Lodge.

We had scored a great deal on Crowd Cut or one of those discount sites that came with credit in the restaurant. Beautiful lodge done in the Up North style but without being overdone or tacky. I was a fan. Felt like a large B&B and everyone was really friendly. We kept running into this one family actually, with an endearingly nerdy dad and some teenage kids. I took their family photo down on those rocks you see above, and then they returned the favor.
 But once I get the camera out it's hard to put away. Hence our little photo shoot with the self-timer you saw up at the beginning of the post.

Loved this window-frame mirror in the bedroom, by the way. I've been looking for an old barn window to do something crafty with for years. One of these days ...

These flowers were beautiful but incredible stinky. Like feet. Something tells me they are probably weeds.

Since we didn't arrive at the lodge until 7 or so and still had to shower and explore (have to explore!), we had a pretty late dinner. Didn't help that the service for us was just awful, but we're pretty sure it's a family-run place and the youngest teenage girl was assigned to our table. We had this view while we waited, so it was hard to complain (although I did go and ask the bartender for drinks and bread!)

Evan got a little impatient.

But it was well worth the wait. He got a steak with the most perfect mashed potatoes and roasted veggies, and I enjoyed gnocchi with some citrus cream sauce and veggies. Delicious. Made me pretty excited for fall.

There was a firepit out back with all the fixings for s'mores, so guests could mingle and tell stories. We didn't make it there since our dinner was so late, but we did sit out in the adirondack chairs for a while and watched the moon come up (it was just past full).

Hello morning! I love that the sun rises over Superior. Makes me excited to get outside. These are the chairs we sat in the night before, and I had high hopes of plopping myself down there during the day for some relaxation and reading, but somehow that never happened.

Instead we wandered around the property, and went out to that peninsula we spotted the night before.

Can you guess our plans for the rest of the day? (hint: see my shorts)

C loves rocky beaches.

Yes, we set out on a biking trip that day! Beaver Bay to Gooseberry along the Gitch-Gami State Trail, a paved trail that runs along Lake Superior, dipping up and down, meandering through birch trees. It was quite the hilly course, but that makes it more interesting (and challenging), especially around Split Rock Lighthouse. I wish I had a camera strapped to my bike because there were so many gorgeous views. But I took mental pictures instead, not to fear. Imagine the rushing wind past your ear, the tall lines of birch shuttering past, with crisp blue peaking through as you coast down a steep incline towards the shore. I grew up biking with my dad out in New Jersey (believe it or not, there are plenty of open curvy roads, hugged by trees and boughs tunneling the path). So getting back on my bike always makes for a special day, especially when I get to be near the water. Heaven.

We didn't really stop at Split Rock since we didn't want to leave our bikes (no lock) and didn't want to pay anyway. But we've been there before and it's a fun place to bring a picnic if you have time. Here is a photo we captured from E's phone. See it off in the distance?

At Gooseberry Falls (it's a waterfall within a state park, and there are hiking trails and campsites) we ate the lunch we packed (summer sausage, cheese, fruit, granola bars ... ) then turned right around to head back. Uffda. We've definitely explored that area in years past, but no time this trip.

A few miles down the road we happened upon Iona's Beach:

The beach is made up of lots of small flat rocks, that are surprisingly painful with bare feet. But well worth it to dip in the cold water.

You do have to get off the paved trail and head down a path before stepping out onto the beach, but there is a sign and it's just north of a parking lot (check the link above for coordinates/directions).

Needless to say, when we finally made it back to the lodge after 25 miles of biking (felt a lot longer than that from the hills) we were ready to kick back and relax in these over-sized chairs.

After a quick change in the parking lot we were on our way back to the cities. But not before a little stop at a cute restaurant, Nokomis Restaurant & Bar, just between Duluth and Two Harbors, on that scenic drive where they start Grandma's Marathon.

We split a couple of appetizers and an Arnold Palmer. Kind of expensive for the amount of food you end up with, but it was very tasty and the perfect way to wrap up our anniversary weekend.

In summary, here's a rundown of where we stayed/ate/played, in case you're interested in planning a similar trip. Fall is a beautiful time to head up north!

Stayed at:
 Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay

Ate at:
Wuollet Bakery in Minneapolis
 Cove Point Lodge Restaurant - I forgot to mention that the morning buffet is an authentic Swedish breakfast, complete with hard cooked eggs, salami, pickled cukes, and herring! (there are other standard American options as well)

Played at:
Split Rock River Loop on the Superior Hiking Trail
Gitch-Gami State Trail between Beaver Bay and Gooseberry Falls (free), passing by Split Rock Lighthouse ($6-9) and Iona's Beach (free). Here is a map of the trail

Someday ...
There is camping at both Split Rock and Gooseberry, and I checked out the Split Rock sites on our ride - definitely have to do that someday. Nestled between trees right next to the water. And there are tons of other camping options if you're interested, and lodges/rentals/hotels for that matter. We actually hiked past three backpacking camp sites right on the Split Rock River, which looked like a really fun way to spend a weekend with a group of friends. You feel like you're much further away than 3 miles from Hwy 61.

Read more about my favorite things to do up North.

One Month of Eating Out

Okay, so we haven't really been eating out for a full month, since we've had our stove back in the kitchen for the last week or two, but we have been a bit out of sorts in our meal planning and preparations for the past four weeks. Scrambled eggs, simple pasta dishes, and brats on the grill have been staples around here. And endless bowls of cereal. But it's all been worth it. You see, this past Saturday officially marked one month since we said adios to yellow laminate counters, saw-dusty cabinets, and a windowless kitchen.

And said hello to fresh white cabs, rich brown floors, and a glorious window:

As you can see, we still have work to do. Namely: installing a granite counter (which won't happen for another few weeks since it's on backorder), framing out the window, adding crown molding to the cabinets, finish installing the drawers, adding drawer pulls and door knobs, finishing off the floors with base trim, reattaching one ceiling light, and a whole lot of painting. Note: since I started writing this post Saturday morning we've checked some of those items off our list! I'll share those updates and more soon!

Here's a glimpse at what we've been up to this past week and a half since my last post.

One night Evan and I wrestled these tall refrigerator sideboards into our kitchen. You think I'm kidding about the wrestling? These things were the heaviest, most awkward part of the entire project, and here we were at 11pm, E probably on 4 hours of sleep, and we're trying to carry them in through a tight side door. And we didn't have to do it once, but rather a total of four times, since each board had to be measured in place and then brought outside to be cut (above photo is before cutting, as you can see by how far it sticks out on the sides). On one of these occasions we had a little friend who just had to get in on the action.
Seriously the biggest flying bug I've seen ... looked more like a flying cockroach really. Needless to say, this caused a slight delay in our project while E and I both ran around, arms flailing, voices pitched a little higher than normal, trying to figure out how to get him out of the house. (Scenes from our recent bee situation came to mind.) I had the brilliant plan of turning out all the lights, then flipping one on and hope that he was like a moth and drawn to the light. But we both decided that walking around the house in the dark with a huge beetle underfoot wasn't the best plan of attack, and luckily we found him huddled in the corner anyway, so we scooped him up and tossed him outside. Cuz we're nice like that.

By the end of the night, we had the refrigerator nook ready, complete with overhead cabinet! (Actually, at this point, I don't think those sideboards were actually fastened in place...)

You know you want to see where Evan plans on stashing his cow collection:

Other highlights from the past couple weeks include some plumbing work:

Above left is when we installed the dishwasher. See the copper wire twisted around the screw in between the orange caps? Finally those years of making jewelry back in gradeschool paid off. For me, not for Evan. In case you were wondering.

That sink was a pain to install. We had leaks a few nights later and had to re-do the process. We've been told we'll have to undo it again when the countertop is installed. At least we're Evan is getting practice.

Yes! Dishwasher in working order! For those of you who haven't shared a meal at our house, I'll fill ya in on a little secret. Evan is pretty protective of his dishwashers. In fact, he's so particular of how we load the dishes that he often unloads whatever I've put in to rearrange the whole thing!

Why hello Mr. Primer. Actually, this is a paint and primer in one I used since we already had it on hand. (Once upon a time I was planning on painting our old cabinets ... yea, that didn't happen).
One Saturday evening, after we spent the day driving all over the metro for various odds and ends, I whipped out my trusty paint brush and got to work preparing our new base trim. We had to buy three separate pieces to create something that mimics the rest of the trim in our house. They just don't make 'em like they used to! (Note: I only used the above paint brush for two seconds before switching out to a high density foam roller and my short-handled angled brush to get in the grooves.)

Pretty sunset ... squint and the ugly wire disappear. 

 And the next morning I was back at it, this time with a trusty cup of coffee in my hand. And for those of you who don't know, C + coffee = crazytown. Not a typical morning activity for me, but I absolutely love it, so I had to indulge. And contrary to what my cup may have you believe, there was no kahlua in my coffee.

I know this is a long post, but we gotta keep truckin. We're behind folks! And it's 10:52pm and I'm missing the Olympics for this. (women's gymnastics too! ... don't worry, I have it recording)

 Example A of what happens when C has coffee:

No, I was simply trimming some of the toe boards that fit under the cabinets. Our handyman left his saw at our house, and it's quite the contraption where it turns into a collapsable table that you can wheel away. I told Evan we should buy a cool saw like that for our anniversary this year (which is Saturday!). The gift for #5 is wood ... so I thought it was fitting. E said it's a little sinister and suggested we buy a tree instead. 

This is the piddly stuff we had fun doing almost every night for about a week. Gradually assembling the shelves, doors and drawers to the cabinets (photo on the right) and installing the cabinet toe board (on the left). We learned a few things along the way: when your floor isn't completely level it's hard to install a perfectly level toe board. And sometimes a rickety wire basket can make your spouse go crazy and result in multiple trips to Ikea. True story.

Mr. E has become quite the perfectionist. Here he is inspecting a piece of wood. I wonder if that's what his "teacher eye" looks like?

Other piddly projects include installing the side panels to the cabinets and the extension under the cabinets, to give it that nice finished look and to hide our under cab lights. 

This too, involved a trip to Ikea (we weren't sure if they were supposed to overhang or be trimmed to fit), and of course an obligatory $1 frozen yogurt.

And last project for this post: some electrical work. You know how fun it is to set the mood when you're cooking, so we had to install some under cabinet lights. Actually, Mark and Evan did most of this during the day (including some in-cabinet lights for our glass shelves) but we had to finish up next to the stove. Mark had the brilliant idea to remove the nails from these little plastic staples and insert screws in their place, so that you can screw those suckers up into the cabinets instead of fighting gravity while hammering up. I'm sure there was another reason, but that was good enough for me.

And then it was the weekend. And we said goodbye to house projects forever and ran away to the sea!

Actually it was just Lake Pepin and we were only gone a day. But it was fun sailing with Mr. E's long-time high school friend and forgetting about kitchens for a while.

I'll be back soon!

Read up on the first half of our kitchen renovation project: day 0day 1day 2day 3day 4, the big window day, and renovating with a baby (aka, our friends help us install cabinets)

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