Each year we welcome our Elf on the Shelf, Elroy, at our home’s Annual North Pole Breakfast. The day before we go on a hunt for the perfect Christmas tree and decorate it. The boys have come to expect that in the morning Elroy will arrive. He will be sitting in the newly decorated tree surveying the festive scene he’s set for breakfast.
Elroy Elf arrived at our house in 2012, when our oldest was just 2 1/2 years old. The breakfast was a fun way to usher in the idea of Elroy, along with the book. When the boys wake up the morning of the breakfast, they notice the decorated table and then head to the tree to find Elroy. We read the special note Elroy wrote to them as well as the book (both serve as part of the tablescape). There is added magic in having a personalized note written from your Elf.
The inspiration for the place setting was the snowman salad plates. They are melamine making them easy to store which is important because all items need to be tucked away the night after the party. Elroy leaves no trace. Once I decided on the salad plates, I started building out the rest of the dishware and decorations.
Lime green stocking with coordinating paper napkin
I layered the place mat over the vinyl table cloth and then centered the dinner plate on the place mat and topped with the salad plate. I stuffed a mini stocking with silverware and a paper napkin. Each year, Elroy brings the boys an ornament for the Christmas tree in their rooms. I use a Sharpie to write Merry Christmas from Elroy on the back of the ornament as well as the year.
The table’s centerpiece was a serving tray with the arrival note from Elroy on an easel. I propped the Elf on the Shelf book in the background and dangled a string of battery operated lights around the tray. I used a red cake stand to display a fun food items and a snowman sign. The snowman sign was stick in a clear vase wrapped with decorative paper. I stuffed tissue paper in the vase and topped with small red pom pom balls. I tapes the snowman sign to a cake pop stick and balances in the vase. The snowman sign and vase were made using a printable from Amanda’s Parties To Go.
Above the table I hung snowflakes of various sizes and colors using colored string. On the backs of the chairs I tied lime organza bows. The food for the party varies from year to year. I’ve made candy caned stacks of powdered donuts, chimney pudding cups, snowmen on a stick and donut Santa hats. All those treats serve as appetizers and a distraction while daddy makes the main course; Santa Cakes. The Santa Cakes are made with a basic pancake face, chocolate chip eyes, an M&M nose, a strawberry hat and loads of whip cream. The boys love the pancakes and look forward to our Santa breakfast each year. The breakfast has become one of our favorite family traditions.
The food. It’s hands down the best part of Thanksgiving. I’m thankful I have family members who wish to host the feast, freeing me up to dish up a creative turkey day breakfast for my boys. Here’s how I do it:
several strips fully cooked bacon/turkey bacon (haha)
candy corn and candied eyes
scrambled eggs-to serve as a side
Simply follow the directions on the cinnamon roll package. When adding icing, place a candy corn beak and candied eyes. Place fully cooked bacon between ceases of the roll (you may need to use a knife to create a slit to stick the bacon in). Serve with a side of scrambled eggs and…..that. is. it. Here’s a video tutorial from Delish.com on how to make them.
Bonus Turkey Treats
If you’re attending a Thanksgiving gathering with several youngsters, a kid friendly dessert is an excellent dish to add to the menu. Serving up a kid minded sweet will keep the little ones entertained for a few minutes longer so the adults can enjoy the pie and wine.
Turkey Pudding Cups
chocolate pudding cups
feathers in various colors
red glittery felt
Turn the pudding cups upside down. Use hot glue to attach three feathers to one side of the cup (the back). On the front side hot glue candied eyes and a small orange felt triangle for the beak. Use red glittery felt to cut a wattle (that’s the red skin that hangs from a turkey’s neck. I Googled it) and glue next to the beak. Use orange felt to cut feet and glue to underside of pudding up. Kiddos will gobble this treat up.
Rice Cereal Turkeys
rice cereal bars (cut into large rectangles)
miniature peanut butter cups
red, orange and yellow Starbursts
mini chocolate chips
snowflake cookie cutter
Start by softening the Starbursts in the microwave and then flatten with your fingertips. Use one corner of the snowflake cookie cutter to create the feather shape. Use a small dab of frosting to attach the leaves and the peanut butter cups to the crispy bar. Attach the mini chocolate chip eyes with a bit of frosting. Pipe on yellow frosting for the legs and feet as well as the beak. Use a tiny bit of squished red Starburst for the turkey’s wattle. The idea for this treat was found here.
Oink, cluck, moo our little Bridger was turning two! I was looking to harvest up some fun for his birthday party and since he’s a lover of tractors and animals, a barnyard bash seemed to fit the bill.
Many of the images and decorations for this party were made using the Cricut Create a Critter template as well as an instant download I purchased from Stockberry Studios. The birthday boy wore a custom t-shirt similar to the one here.
I love handmade invitations. Yes, they take forever to make and they are often tedious to create, but the finished product is more of a keepsake than a notice of the party’s details.
Cardstock (black, red, white, yellow, a lighter yellow, orange, green, brown, tan, gray, and pink)
you only need one sheet of several of the lesser colors like the yellows, orange, tans and gray. I used scraps I had on hand/left over from other projects.
Red and white gingham paper
New Cricut blade-this invite requires A LOT of cuts (optional)
When guests arrived at the party, there was no mistaking they were at Bridger’s Barnyard Bash. On the front door hung a burlap wreath announcing you were about to enter the party and the terrible two’s. The party was in the fall, so festive seasonal decorations did double duty as a place to prop a sign announcing the birthday boy. Instructions on how to make a burlap wreath can found here. The birthday sign was made with three 1x4s cut, painted and attached to a 1×1 stake. The letters on the signs were painted with a stencil I made on the Cricut.
The tablescape and centerpieces for the party were simple and fun to put together. A variety of streamer colors and some cow print balloons were strung above the table. The table was covered in a red plastic table cloth with a cow print table runner down the middle. Place settings consisted of stacking a 12 inch round yellow dinner plate, an 8 inch square red dessert plate and then attaching a 3 inch printable circle, from the Stockberry printable, on top. I folded light green napkins in half and wrapped with a drink wrapper from the same collection. The drink bottles are emptied and washed Starbucks Frappaccino bottles that were covered with a drink wrapper. I added a yellow chevron paper drinking straw and a red and white striped ribbon around the bottle’s neck.
The main dining room table centerpiece was the birthday cake surrounded by a variety of cupcakes on a red cake stand.
To make the sheep cake, I baked a smaller cake and covered it with green frosting. The sheep is a cupcake laid on it’s side with mini marshmallows for wool and a large marshmallow head. The legs are white and black fondant rolled to shape and size.
The second dining table’s centerpiece was a couple of hay bales with animals and a sign made from the printables and Create a Critter Cricut Collection.
From our kitchen island the birthday boys’ favorite meal of hot dogs, mac n’ cheese, fruit and pickles was served. I covered the island with another red plastic table cloth, plopped a balloon bouquet in the middle and strung a handmade garland across the front. The garland was made using a piece of twine that I tied 12 inch strips of various fabrics and ribbons. I chose red gingham, cow print and yellow polka dot fabric as well as red pom pom ribbon and a scalloped yellow ribbon. It was adorable and easy to make.
Our fun loving now two year old kicked off his second year in style and with the biggest cake covered grin.
I love Halloween. I love to decorate for it. I love to make costumes for it. I love to steal trick-or-treat candy from my kids once they are in bed. Halloween is another excuse for me to express my creativity. Plus, I love to surprise my boys with spooky treats and special parties. This year I put together a spooky celebration complete with witches brew and pumpkin pizza.
I decorate for Halloween like some people decorate for Christmas. I focused my decorating on the dining room and kitchen this year to add even more pazzazz to the party. Across the patio door I suspended a giant bendable spider that I secured to the wall with a tea cup hook. Draped over the doorway were two strands of black and candy corn garland. I added a few spider webs to tie the decorations to the nearby wine cabinet. The wine cabinet was decorated with a webbed candelabra and a simple white skeleton.
The tablescape was my favorite part of the party. I used a spiderweb table runner that was topped with two medium, white pumpkins and three small, orange pumpkins. The idea for the fabric covered bats was found here. It was easy to create and added just the right amount of whimsy to the table. Place settings were created using orange and black buffalo plaid placements, black and white buffalo plaid dinner plates and polka dot and spider salad plates. A simple punch of green Gatorade and Sprite filled Belgian beer glasses. I added sour gummy worms to the glasses and told my boys it was a special witches brew.
I covered the kitchen island with a cheap plastic table cloth and used two black and orange buffalo plaid placements as a runner. The island centerpiece was a white metal scale from a home interior store. I found the pumpkins at Target, they were actually the inspiration for the centerpiece. I’ve had my eye on the scale for a couple months and once I found the pumpkins, I knew just how I’d use it. I plan to incorporate the scale into my kitchen decor after Halloween. The banner hung above the island was also found at Target.
Party Supply List
Spooktacular Supply List
Giant bendable spider
2 strands of black and orange garland from JoAnn Fabrics
Webbed candelabra with glitter candles from Michael’s
Our family recently moseyed down a dimly lit trail, cradling warm beverages, surrounded by over 5,000 intricately carved pumpkins at the Minnesota Zoo’s 2nd Annual Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular. The 1/4 mile trail of glowing pumpkins features dizzying details and creatively carved designs. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular runs through November 3rd. Tickets are sold online for specific entry times. I suggest purchasing in advance as times will sell out. We arrived about 45 prior to our ticketed time allowing a few minutes to use the restrooms, grab a warm beverage (they come with or without Schnapps, you decide) and play a quick game of pumpkin tic-tac-toe. The zoo’s Central Plaza also has various snacks for purchase, a small straw maze and pumpkin bowling and bean bags.
The queue to the trail may look lengthy, but moves quickly and once to the trailhead people fan out for a more comfortable meander through the display. The 2019 theme is Around the World and features scenes from across the globe, each set to music. The pathways and even trees were decorated with carved creations, no duplicates. The Asian scene featured a pagoda, the English scene a castle and a Leaning Tower of Pisa accompanied the Italian scene.
We spent about 40 minutes on the trail. Along the way each of us pointing out details not to be missed or questioning how carvers were able to put such precise detail on a pumpkin. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular runs for 33 nights and carvers will create around 20,000 pumpkins during that time, swapping out wilting designs for fresh illuminated faces throughout the event. The video below from the Travel Channel gives a behind the scenes glimpse into how a similar trail was constructed.
Come prepared to wait and to walk. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is along the zoo’s Northern Trail, which is a 10 minute walk from the main entrance. The pumpkin trail is another 1/4 mile. Wheelchairs/strollers/wagons are a must have if your group includes young ones or those with difficulty walking. We went on a weeknight when crowds were fewer and lines were shorter. Organizers say that on weekends, guests can expect to wait up to 2 hours in line. Yikes. This is probably why they serve those beverages mentioned above. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular was a great experience for our family. Our boys loved the displays and the morning after their faces are still lit up.
Last year I turned forty years old. Unlike some, I didn’t dread the prospect. I saw it as an opportunity to celebrate all I’d accomplished and continue to forge ahead carving out the life I hoped to lead. I took a couple of ‘life list’ trips. Scott and I climbed the Acropolis and soaked up the sun in Santorini on a dream trip to Greece. We loaded our eight and six year old boys up in an RV and drove 2,000 miles round trip for a week long adventure in Yellowstone National Park. I started making healthier choices and took up running. I ran eight different 5K races, for a total of 40K in the five months leading up to my fortieth birthday. I also wanted to do something that made me feel empowered. I needed the chance to show myself that the insecurities and doubts of my 20s and 30s were gone. I could accomplish hard things. So I asked a close friend, Kate, to go off the grid for a few days and rough it in the Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She said, yes.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park has over 90 miles of hiking trails covering more than 60,000 acres and is home to the famous Lake of the Clouds. We spent the better part of a year detailing our trip. What would we eat? How much was too much weight to carry in our 60L packs? Did we trust our fire starting skills? All good questions as we defined our two night adventure in a primitive cabin on Mirror Lake. The choice of primitive cabin meant we’d have reliable shelter and a source of heat, as there would be a wood burning stove. We would be without running water and electricity. The trip would take place in mid-October and weather conditions would be unpredictable. The cabin also offered a chance to “rough” it without being miserable.
On a Thursday afternoon, armed with a can of bear spray and little idea of how to use it, we stepped onto the Summit Peak Trail for a 4 mile trek to our cabin. We quickly learned that trekking along rough terrain with 30 pounds of supplies strapped to our backs is not easy. We hiked through gorgeous fall foliage and looming coniferous forest, on a slippery and mostly uphill trail. The wet weather and a fresh layer of snow, left the trail treacherous and every step needed to be negotiated. We laid eyes on our accommodations, Mirror Lake Cabin #4, in the mid afternoon. The hikers before us had left a good supply of fire wood so we took to figuring out how to filter more water for supper.
Feeling accomplished, we decided to explore the trails near Mirror Lake. It was a bright fall afternoon with temperatures in the mid-fifties. After a little exploring, we tried gathering more firewood (leave the place better than you found it) and made quesadillas for dinner. We planned to hike about 8 miles the following day to Lake of the Clouds and knew we needed to be rested. We enjoyed our first wilderness dinner, played some cards via headlamps and tried to make our cabin as toasty warm as possible before curling up in our sleeping bags. It was lights out on day one.
Neither Kate nor I are the type to sleep in, but somehow we managed to sleep until 8 o’clock on our first morning. We warmed our bellies and our spirits with oatmeal and tea. We loaded small daypacks with PB&Js, some nuts and fruit and full water bottles determined to reach Lake of the Clouds. The Lake was about 4 miles away from our cabin and we needed to traverse through the center of the Porcupine Wilderness to get there. We traipsed through a bog and up a tall peak before we realized we were about 2 miles off course and needed to back track. This was a low point in the trip. We sat on a rock atop Government Peak and lamented about how we’d just walked about 4 miles out of our way. Questions about how long it would take us to get back on track, how much daylight remained to make the entire journey and how difficult the trail would be all lingered in our minds. We picked up our pace and our attitudes and trudged on. We were determined to make it to our destination. Portions of the trail were hard to distinguish as we hopped from tree root to tree roost to avoid ankle deep mud, but we pushed on and finally arrived at Lake of the Clouds.
We still needed to go about a half mile straight up to get to the lookout. There was hesitation. Our legs were tired, it would be a difficult hike back to the cabin and there were rain drops and darkening skies to deal with. We persisted and it was worth it. We were rewarded with beautiful reds, oranges and yellows of the late fall season in the Porkies. That evening we cooked dinner, reflected on our accomplishments (and our blunders) and celebrated all of it with a canteen of Prickly Pear Vodka and lemonade.
The next morning we scarfed down a breakfast bar and a hot cup of tea and made the trip back to the trail head. Overnight, temperatures were low and we awoke to 1-2 inches of fresh snow. We heard the hollowing winds and patter of what we thought was rain throughout the night. The light of morning revealed that patter was of wet, heavy snowflakes. We were thankful for our wood stove and sturdy shelter. As we walked to the vehicle our conversation focused on the giant cheeseburgers we planned to eat and the running water we planned to wash our faces in once we reached the nearest restaurant.
The Porkies are beautiful, but this trip was beautiful in other ways as well. Kate and I strengthened our friendship through experiences that pushed our patience, our tolerance and our determination. Our trip was a celebration of our fortieth birthdays, but it also taught us about self reliance and when to lean into trusted friends for support. We also learned that those giant cheeseburgers we were dreaming about tasted better than we could have imagined.
My favorite color is fall. Sipping cider, rustling leaves, bushels of mums and rusty wagons overloaded with pumpkins are my ideas of fall perfection. Every year, our family seeks out those sweet fall moments at a pumpkin patch. Hayrides, corn mazes and a chance to snag the perfect pumpkin were at the top of our agenda when we decided to try out Pinehaven Farm in Wyoming, MN. I’d recently come across an article in Reader’s Digest listing Pinehaven as the best pumpkin patch in Minnesota. We went to see for ourselves.
activities for everyone
We arrived on a Friday in the early afternoon (took advantage of an early out day at school), hoping to beat the crowds. We basically had the whole place to ourselves. Admission at Pinehaven Farm ranges between $9-$14 per person, depending on the day you go. There are so many activities to do for the price, it’s worth it. We spent about three hours at the farm feeding goats, zipping down the slide, climbing haystacks and bouncing on the giant pillow. There are dozens of other activities to try at Pinehaven including a corn pit, a pumpkin eating dragon and a trolley that shuttles guests to and from the pick-your-own pumpkin patch.
My favorite part of the farm was the corn maze. I may be a bit directional challenged, but the maze was a chance for the boys to work together as we attempted to navigate the maze and earn punches on our corn maze card. We tried our best to find all the checkpoints, but eventually tired of the process and went to find a snack. On weekdays, Pinehaven offers cookies, caramel apples, mini donuts and a variety of sodas and drinks. Weekend snack seekers have more selection with roasted corn-on-the-cob, nachos, hot dogs, funnel cakes, cheese curds and a beer garden. Next year we’ll plan to come back on a weekend, for food reasons alone.
Twice daily a train whistle sounds, summoning guests to gather at the pumpkin cannon for a launch. Using about as much pressure as a car tire, the cannon hurls a pumpkin at about 250 miles per hour for a distance of about 1/3 of a mile. The boys were impressed.
I’d do that again
Due to the wet conditions in the pumpkin patch, we chose to pick our pumpkins from the pre-picked patch. The boys painstakingly pawed through the pumpkins trying to choose just the right one. We had a great time at Pinehaven and are already making plans to go back next year.
When the calendar flips to the month of October, I start planning and prepping for spooky snacks and creative costumes. I love Halloween and I love to decorate my house and make treats to celebrate this spine-tingling time to year.
Here are a few creative creations I’ve made that will help you and your ghouls get into the ghostly spirit.
Pumpkin candy bowls
These lack-o-lantern filled treat bowls will take at least one overnight, to allow the candy melts to set up overnight. The patience level for this snack is high, but the skill level low. Simply blow up a few water balloons and then dredge in orange candy melts. Then leave the balloon inflated while the candy sets overnight. The next day, you can pop the balloon, use chocolate icing to pipe on a jack-o-lantern grin, fill the bowl with candy and done. I used clear plastic Cello bags to wrap the bowls and attached a purchased treat tag with a piece of orange and black string. I found a tutorial for how to create this treat here.
These creepy crawly donut spiders were simple and required just three ingredients. I used chocolate covered mini donuts and cut apart mini pretzels that were stuck into the donuts to look like legs. Yes, I know spiders have eight legs. The mini donuts just didn’t look good with some many legs. I used a tiny bit of chocolate frosting to attach the M&M eyes. See the tutorial on how to assemble them here.
chocolate covered mini donuts
The jack-o-lantern pizza is a easiest Halloween treat. Step #1: Go to a Papa Murphy’s. Step #2: Order the Jack-o-Lantern pizza. Step #3: Make the pizza.
Our family does this every year and judging by the line of people at Papa Murphy’s on October 31st so do many others. This year I plan to order online and pick up before 2pm to avoid the crowds.
When you think honeymoon, you most likely think of white, sandy beaches and warm ocean breezes. Not us. When planning our honeymoon we were looking to fill our days with museums, history, architecture, great food and nightlife. Destination: New York City. The day after we said ‘I do” we boarded a plane for the Big Apple touching down for what was one of our most memorable adventures.
We spent 5 nights in the bustling city, resting our heads at the Washington Jefferson Hotel in the Theater District. It was a great location and reasonably priced. Here’s how we tackled the sights of this sprawling city.
We’d taken an early morning flight and arrived at our hotel around Noon. Our itinerary had just two items on it; walk the Brooklyn Bridge and enjoy dinner in Little Italy.
The bridge spans the East River and connects Manhattan with the borough of Brooklyn. The spiderweb of suspension cables is spell binding and beautiful.
We ate dinner at Il Palazzo. A great, old school Italian restaurant with a cozy atmosphere and a long wine list. Sadly, Il Palazzo is now permanently closed.
Empire State Building
The Empire State building is the 4th tallest in NYC, at 1,050. We bought our tickets for the 86th floor observatory to take in great panoramic views of the city.
Fifth Avenue and St. Patrick’s Cathedral
We strolled along the famous avenue to window shop at Saks, FAO Schwartz and Bergdorf Goodman before poking our heads into St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Lunch Break: street vendor hot dog and pretzel
Grand Central Station
It’s estimated 50,000 people stream through Grand Central Station everyday. We came not to board a train but to be awed by the main concourse, flooded with natural light and beauty.
This art deco style building pays tribute to the automobile with it’s hub cap like steel upper third.
This triangular building has been intriguing visitors since 1902 and it caught our fascination as well. It quickly became my favorite building in the city.
NYC Pizza and the Comedy Cellar
We ate and laughed until our stomachs hurt at Lombardi Pizza and the Comedy Cellar Club. Lombardi’s is credited with dishing up the very first New York style pizza. The Comedy Cellar Club boosts great stand up comedians like Colin Quinn and Jerry Seinfeld.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
At the time of our trip the crown to the statue was not open. I did visit the crown with friends a few years later and I highly recommend it. Advanced reservations are a must.
We took the ferry to Liberty Island and toured the pedestal and grounds then ferried onto Ellis Island to tour the National Museum of Immigration.
These two stops took 3-4 hours.
New York Stock Exchange and Wall Street
We walked by these sites and the famous charging bull at 11 Wall Street on our way to grab a New York slice of pizza for lunch.
World Trade Center Site
Just 5 years post 9/11, the site was filled with heavy machinery and equipment. Having never seen the site prior to the attacks, I was taken back by the enormity of it all. We will need to return now that the 9/11 Memorial has been completed.
Wicked at the Gershwin Theater
We “never knew so much happened before Dorothy dropped in.” Wicked was our first Broadway Theater performance and it was thrilling. A definite must see.
After the show we went to the Hourglass Tavern in the Theater District. The tavern is located in an old brownstone building, making the ambience equally as good as the food.
We rode the carousel, saw Strawberry Fields, took a horse drawn carriage ride, people watched at the Bethesda Fountain and rowed a boat in Central Park Lake.
All of it was very honeymoonish and my favorite memories of our time in NYC.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Housing some of the finest art pieces in the world, means the Met is huge. We chose to spend our time exploring just two of the collections that peeked our interest.
Osteria del Circo
With restaurants in New York City, Dallas and Dubai, diners at Circo are transported to a European style carnival tent atmosphere and upscale Italian eats. If you go, order the salt encrusted sea bass. We loved it and so do Regis Philbin, who was dining just two tables away.
Rockefeller Center and NBC Studios
We spent our last day in the city strolling through Rockefeller Center and taking the NBC Studios Tour. The tour take us on the set of Saturday Night Live and Dateline. We also got a chance to use a green screen and deliver the nightly weather report.
We spent out last evening on Times Square where we ate dinner and soaked in the neon lights.
Our honeymoon in the heart of NYC was one of our first trips together and to date, still one of the best. A couple important and interested sights have opened since we visited in 2006. The next time we wake up in the city that never sleeps, we’ll be sure to include stops at the 9/11 Memorial and One World Trade Center, a stroll along the High Line and a sunset at the Top of the Rock.
Ice cream is the currency of summer. There is no better treat on a hot summer day than a stop at a ice cream shop for a drippy, double scoop cone. Our family set out to sample sweet treats at seven different ice cream shops this summer. We tried a few new flavors as well as ordered some tried and true favorites.
Stop #1-Dairy queen
Dairy Queen is a summer staple in Minnesota, which meant it had to be stop number one on our ice cream tour. Plus the folks at DQ developed an attention getting marketing campaign; a flight of mini Blizzards. Bring on the Blizzard buffet. Our three picks were Brownie Dough, Cotton Candy and Cookie Dough. The first two flavors were new for summer so we dabbled with a couple different choices and the Cookie Dough we were confident was a good pick. Brownie Dough was our favorite. It was not overly chocolatey and the brownie bites were soft. It turned out Cotton Candy was a crowd pleaser as well. The boys love anything with sprinkles and this Blizzard delivered in that category. Ice Cream Experience Rating: 8/10 scoops. If the flight would be been presented on a little tray with placards like beer then….10/10 scoops. Location: Monticello, MN
stop #2-Wonders ice cream co.
Rolled ice cream is trending right now, so we jumped on the fan bus. Wonders signature flavor menu was extensive and we were a bit overwhelmed by all the choices. After lengthy consideration, we chose the Raspberry Berry, the Sour Tang and the Hella Chocolate. So many yummy flavors were scraped, rolled and creatively placed into these little paper cups. Aside from the yummy flavors, we liked the light and smooth texture of the ice cream. Our seemingly complex creations took just a few minutes to make. Watching these ice cream artists work their hibachi style ice grill was almost as great as the ice cream itself. Ice Cream Experience Rating: 9/10 scoops. If our three small signature creations would have been less expensive than our lunch….then 10/10 scoops. Location: Maple Grove, MN
stop #3-santa lucia’s
While DQ and Wonders offer vast selections of mixed ice cream creations, Santa Lucia’s keeps it simple with good ole hard scoop offerings (and plenty of them). Four large cases display a dizzying number of flavors, some of which are hard to find. I struggled to choose between the huckleberry and the rhubarb. Despite the fact I could have had a scoop of each in my cone, I went with the huckleberry and was more than satisfied. A small cone or dish here could feed a family of four as scoop sizes border on obscene. Ice Cream Experience Rating: 7/10 scoops. If only the scoop size wasn’t so big that I didn’t scrape some into the garbage just because I wanted to eat the cone then….10/10 scoops. Location: Milaca, MN
stop #4-lost lake creamery
Street side seating in front of this old fashioned ice cream parlor just adds to the experience at Lost Lake Creamery. Its another simple ice cream shop with generous scoops. This time we licked up raspberry sorbet and Pirate’s Bounty, which was a creamy blend of caramel ice cream with chocolate candy and cookies. There are also 24 other flavors and doggie dishes for four legged friends. Ice Cream Experience Rating: 7/10 scoops. Add more outdoor benches and tables as well as trash cans to this seasonal shop then….10/10 scoops. Location: Mound, MN
stop #5-schoony’s malt shop
All camping trips require a stop for ice cream. Schoony’s Malt Shop was just the spot on our visit to Interstate State Park and the Glacial Potholes. Schoony’s has a wide variety of flavors, even coconut. We opted for strawberry, Super-Man and chocolate chip cookie dough. We also ordered a vanilla malt, since the place is a malt shop after all. The malt was hand made with real ice cream and topped with whipped cream. So good. Ice Cream Experience Rating: 7/10 scoops. Refresh the shops interior and spruce up the seating options then…10/10 scoops. Location: Taylor’s Falls, MN
stop #6-MinNesota NIce Cream
We opted not to add the edible glitter to our specialty waffle cones at Minnesota Nice Cream. Our stop here was a break for the hard scoop shops, to try soft serve cones with creative toppings. The boys both ordered the Dirt ‘n’ Worms with chocolate ice cream, Oreo cookies, gummy worms and sprinkles. I had the Berry Nice with vanilla ice cream, lemon confetti cake, berries and you guessed it…sprinkles. If you’re looking for lactose free ice cream options, Minnesota Nice Cream has loads. Ice Cream Experience Rating: 8/10 scoops. If parking was more plentiful then….10/10 scoops. Location: Northeast Minneapolis
stop #7-Milkjam creamery
Milkjam Creamery offered the most unique and fun flavors of any of our ice cream tour stops. Flavors like Thai Tea, Uma Thurman and Pikachu were some of the most interesting. In addition to dishes and cones topped with creative scoops, the creamery also offers sundaes and ice cream sandwiches as well as boozy floats and shakes. The boys ordered the Ridin’ Duuurty; Oreo milk with Oreo chucks and hunks of salted peanut butter. I opted for the Raspberry Lambic float made with hibiscus lemonade Italian ice. Scott sucked down a Milkjam shake (caramelized goat’s, cow’s and sweetened condensed milks) with a shot of Irish Creme. The ice cream was so very good and the overall atmosphere was vibrant. Ice Cream Experience Rating: 9.9/10 scoops. Go there. Now. Location: Minneapolis
bonus stop: Brigg’s lake general store
We consider ourselves regulars at Brigg’s Lake General Store. It’s our family’s mission to keep this gas station, bait shop, hardware store and liquor store in business with frequent visits for everything from a frozen pizzas to a sheet rock screws. We’re obligated to drop in multiple times each summer for single scoop cake cones. Our order is fairly consistent; one mint chocolate chip, one cotton candy, and one bubble gum; extra napkins. Brigg’s Lake General Store has recently upgraded the seating situation with new picnic tables plopped right outside the entrance. Well played marketing strategy, Brigg’s Lake. Well played. Couple their marketing genius with the clever sizing display and Brigg’s Lake takes home the prize for best stop on the Minnesota Ice Cream Tour. Ice Cream Experience Rating: 10/10 scoops. Location: Palmer, MN