At the end of every year, I look back on the last twelve months and wonder just what I’ve been up to. And every year, I initially think, “Well… nothing. I haven’t been doing anything.”
But guess what?
THAT’S NOT TRUE AT ALL!
In order to reassure myself that I am not wasting my time on earth, I’m looking back at 2017 to try and remember what I’ve done and where I’ve been. And you know what? 2017 was BUSY.
(Lest you think my life is all fun and games, remember that I’m still going to work and the dentist and the grocery store and all that. I just didn’t think you’d want to read about that stuff.)
January started off incredibly strong with one of my favourite New Year's Eves of all time. What did we do? James and I spent the night with our good friends Nate and Taylor, my sister... and my parents and their friends Don and Carol and Steve and Deb.
You may think that does not sound like an especially thrilling evening, but you would be wrong. Honest to God, I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my entire life. We played Cards Against Humanity, and there were times I was laughing so much that I couldn't read what was on my card. I'm talking tears streaming down my face. If you had told me ten years ago that I would be hanging out with my parents on New Year's Eve, I probably wouldn't have believed you. As it turns out, my parents and their friends are some of the most fun and hilarious people I know. I can't wait to hang out with them this New Year's Eve.
January held the Women's March in Sioux Falls, which was so wonderful and heartening.
Another big development in January was the rebirth of my Etsy store. Back in 2013, I had attempted an Etsy shop and had successfully sold one necklace over a sixth-month time span. I shut that first store down and didn't think of it again until late 2016 when I began to prolifically make necklaces out of Lake Poinsett beach glass. In January 2017, I renamed my store (Midwest Charm by Calla) and added 16 necklaces to start. Approximately one year later, I have sold more than 50 through my Etsy store (!!!), more than 50 at craft shows/in person, a handful of custom orders, and have more than 130 in stock. I have BUSINESS CARDS, you guys. What started as basically a whim has become a super fun hobby and a fairly respectable supplemental income. But honestly, the best part of it is sharing my love of Lake Poinsett with the world... or at least, a little corner of the internet.
February is typically a slow month, and this year was no exception. James and I did get to the cities for a long weekend, and we spent some (freezing) time in Stillwater and at the Art Shanties on White Bear Lake.
James and I went to see Twenty One Pilots as his belated birthday gift. We were most certainly some of the oldest people there, but you know what? IT WAS AWESOME.
Otherwise, it was mostly cold and dark. I made a LOT of necklaces in February.
In March, I went in the ditch for the first time in my (then) nearly four years of commuting. It sucked and was terrifying, but I was fine, and so was our pickup. Had I not had the pickup, though, whatever vehicle I was in would've been toast. Thanks, pickup!
In March, my cousin Gina from Norway and her boyfriend Gaute came to visit us! They were taking a road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles, and they made a stop through Luverne. Gina and I had been penpals when we were fifteen, and it was amazing to meet her in person.
March also held one of my all-time favorite vacations: the San Francisco 30/60 trip with Mom and Dad. The three of us decided to go on a trip together to celebrate our milestone birthdays: Dad turned 60 in January, Mom turned 60 in March, and I turned 30 in April. Our days were packed full, and my parents were happy to let me take the reins and basically dictate our entire trip. Which I loved. We went on a bay cruise underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, toured Alcatraz, wandered Chinatown, rode the cable cars as far as they could go, hung out in the Castro, ate delicious Mexican food with my friend Jenessa in the Mission, saw the sea lions at Pier 39, had fresh crab at Fisherman's Wharf, saw the view from Twin Peaks, wandered Ocean Beach by the Pacific and gathered sand dollars and sea glass, saw Coit Tower, went to a wax museum and bizarre history tour when it was too rainy to do anything else, happened upon Food Truck Friday, wandered the shore and heard the wave organ, and ate lots of chocolate at Ghirardelli Square. I fell in love with San Francisco and had a blast, and my parents claim they did, too! It was a great way to end my 20s.
Early April began with my brother-in-law Jesse's wedding in Elk River!
James took me on a surprise weekend trip for my 30th birthday – I told him that I wanted to go somewhere, and I wanted him to pick where. We were limited to a three-day weekend because, when you’re married to a teacher, school-year trips can’t be any longer. I knew we were either going to the Black Hills or Chicago, and as soon as we headed west on the interstate, I knew we were going to the Black Hills. I LOVE the Black Hills more and more every time I go, and we went on a perfect weekend. The weather was wonderful, and we stayed in a little KOA camper cabin (the first weekend the KOA was even open!). We went through Badlands National Park, Jewel Cave, had drinks on the roof of the Hotel Alex Johnson, went to Dinosaur Hill (obviously), hiked up Little Devil’s Tower in Custer State Park, drove the Needles Highway, and hung out in Spearfish and Deadwood.
April 19th was my actual 30th birthday, which was less of a big deal than I had built it up to be. It was mostly like any other day... I went to work for a half-day, had lunch with my family, and supper with James and our friends Joe and Allison.
James asked our friends and family to mail me birthday cards, so it was pretty lovely to have nice notes to read. But 30 wasn't the earth-shattering "I'm officially old" birthday that I thought it would be. It really was just another birthday. Everyone claims that your 30s are exponentially better than your 20s, and I can see why that is. The first half of my 20s involved me graduating college, working shitty part-time jobs and scrounging for rent money while I did my unpaid internships, and not knowing what I wanted to do or who I was. My 20s were also awesome: I made some of my best friends in college, I got married, and in general had a lot of really fantastic life experiences. But as I turn 30, I am starting off with much more stability than I did in my 20s. I have a feeling that I won't get as many crazy stories out of my 30s than I did from my 20s, but I could be wrong. My 30s are going to bring their fair share of adventures... just different kinds of adventures. And that's ok - I don't think I could handle a repeat of my 20s.
In May, James and I went to see The Book of Mormon at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls. It was AMAZING - if you haven't been and don't mind a heavy dose of sacrilege, GO. I have been listening to the soundtrack nearly every day since then.
May also held the annual Orange City Tulip Festival, which is now a mother/daughter tradition. Mom and I have been going every year since 2014, and it's the best. Tulips, poffertjes, marching bands... oh yeah, and sometimes torrential rains.
As far as I'm concerned, summer is the most wonderful time of the year. James finally has some time off, and we can make the most of our weekends. We went river tubing on the Cannon River near Welch, Minnesota - far superior to Apple River tubing, which had previously been our default. While in Welch, we discovered our new favorite tubing beer: Lift Bridge Mango Blonde.
James and I also kicked off the camping season with a stay in Frontenac State Park. We spent a little time exploring nearby Rochester... which we probably don't need to do again. But that's how you find out!
And, of course, June saw the beginning of Lake Poinsett season. We spent plenty of time at Lake Poinsett this summer, but it never feels like enough.
July was one of the busiest months of the year - we started off by taking a long weekend in northern Minnesota for the Fourth of July. We spent one night in Jay Cooke State Park and two nights in Gooseberry Falls State Park and did tons of exploring in between. Split Rock Lighthouse, Grand Marais, Two Harbors, Grand Portage State Park... it was so wonderful. Northern Minnesota has that kind of wild forested beauty that's hard to find in our part of the country. For the first time ever, we took the North Shore Scenic Byway from beginning (Duluth) to end (Grand Portage). We booked it home on the Fourth of July (experiencing a 40-degree temperature increase from Two Harbors to Minneapolis) and made it to Luverne just in time for fireworks.
The Brookings Summer Arts Festival is the second weekend in July, and (aside from my very early childhood), I don't believe I have ever missed a Summer Arts Festival. I hope to continue the trend.
James and I went camping in Lake Carlos State Park in mid-July, and I fulfilled my summer goal of finally trying paddle boarding. In Alexandria, we discovered Nice Juicery and are now soundly obsessed.
July 27 marked our fourth anniversary! We spent our anniversary night kayaking the Rock River.
On July 31, we left on a road trip for Yellowstone. We had initially planned to leave on July 28 and return on August 6, but unforeseen circumstances reduced our trip to July 31 through August 4. We considered switching our trip to somewhere closer/less lofty, but we ultimately decided that this was our big summer road trip, and nothing besides Yellowstone would do.
So most of our Yellowstone road trip fell in August. We camped for one night in Yellowstone, but we saw tons of the park (including THREE BEARS). It was beautiful, but so hot and so crowded, and it was hard to really enjoy a lot of it because we were on such a tight schedule. We made a quick trip through Grand Teton National Park, saw Devil’s Tower, and went through Sturgis during the motorcycle rally. Oh yeah, and the car started to fall apart near Cody, Wyoming.
I started graduate school for library science in August – school orientation was the reason we needed to get back. Grad school is SO MUCH WORK YOU GUYS. However, it will be great to have my master’s degree, and it is kind of fun to have classmates again.
We did lots of stuff September.
Over Labor Day weekend: the Bjorklund cousin trip volume II! This time, we met in St Louis. We saw the Gateway Arch (of course), the Anheuser-Busch brewery, the library (!!!), ate butter cake and barbecue, and visited this insane museum/giant playground that is basically made out of scrap metal. Best of all, of course: we got to see each other. Cousin trips are the best.
September was also the beginning of year four for me doing Ellsworth story time!
James and I saw Garth Brooks with my parents, which was easily the best concert I have ever seen in my life. I am not a huge country fan: in fact, the only country artists that I will voluntarily listen to are Garth Brooks and Johnny Cash. However, I don’t think you needed to know a single Garth Brooks song to enjoy that concert. Seriously amazing.
The next week, I went to Modest Mouse with my dear friend Sarah. I have loved Modest Mouse since I was an angry teenager, and they were spectacular.
October is my favourite month, and it did not disappoint. October started off with my first-ever art show. Four of my photographs were a part of the City of Sioux Falls juried employee art show. My wonderful friends and family came to hang out!
Mom and I took advantage of a beautiful three-day weekend and went to Alexandria, Minnesota. It was SO BEAUTIFUL, you guys. The leaves were at peak color, and there are lakes galore up there. We drove around in the Mustang and looked for loons and beach glass; it was so amazing. We also got to hang out with my super-fun cousins Ethan and Sheri in Fergus Falls and made a stop in Morris to eat at Don’s. Basically the perfect mini-vacation.
James and I took a daytrip to Minneopa State Park, which was gorgeous.
AND I TOTALLY MET JOHN GREEN.
October, of course, holds Halloween: my now and forever favorite holiday. This year, I booked it straight from class to the Sioux Falls Zombie Walk – James picked me up, and I put my makeup on in the car. I don’t like to miss a Zombie Walk. Then, for actual Halloween, I dressed as a jellyfish and left a trail of glitter wherever I went.
November was rather uneventful, save for the annual Thanksgiving at our house. When I was a kid, I never especially looked forward to Thanksgiving. I wasn’t into turkey… or stuffing… or mashed potatoes… or gravy… or pie. I still am not into gravy or pie (or really turkey), but James makes KILLER stuffing. Thanksgiving became one of my favorite holidays when we started hosting it in 2013. We have my whole family over, and James’s family makes it when they can. We have a great dinner (which I don’t help with at ALL, which makes it even better!) and spend our time laughing. Thanksgiving as an adult is awesome.
December held our fourth annual Norwegian Christmas in which we get together with our friends Nate and Taylor and eat the best meal of the year. This year, we had juleribbe (pork rib roast with the skin on), potato dumplings (they were terrible), rice pudding, krumkake, lingonberry mousse, lefse, sauerkraut, and (of course) aquavit. It’s not Norwegian Christmas without aquavit.
Lastly, I think you all should know that I won “funniest Christmas sweater” at the library’s annual Ugly Christmas Sweater contest. For the third year running. No big deal.
That concludes the year 2017. There's so much more I didn't talk about - plays, concerts, work, adventures, great times with family and friends. That was all there, too. 2017 had its ups and downs: James and I both lost grandmothers this year. Thankfully, there were more ups than downs. I hope your 2017 was as good (if not better) than mine, and I hope 2018 holds great things for you.