Stout's Island Resort

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The property

Was established in 1903 as a family-owned and continues to go through building and property renovations. It is currently owned by three business partners including the original lodge which is gorgeous and 11 unique cabins. The dining room is charming with lake views on each side. The soups are made fresh daily and the walleye are particularly good. Beginning the day with cornflake-crusted french toast and local maple syrup is my best recommendation.

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The island is located in northwestern Wisconsin, an easy two-hour drive from the Twin Cities. You park your vehicle at the Birchwood Ferry Landing and take a short boat ride to the Lodge. I had a bit of anxiety packing for this adventure because the island does not have shopping like a nearby drug store. I wanted to be extra prepared and was glad to have everything we needed.


Things to remember:

Prepare as if you are going camping so pack layers of clothing. The weather can change many times on any island in a single day; we brought sweaters, jeans, shorts, tees, sandals, rain coats and boots and used it all. Umbrellas are provided in each cabin. Remember your medications (pain relief, stomach relief, day/night cold relief, prescriptions, etc.). Take snacks like nuts, granola bars, fruit, microwave soups, cheese and crackers for in the room. We liked having a twelve pack of sparkling water along, mini La Marca Prosecco sparkling wines and the makings for cocktails.

We stayed in the Shore Lodge which is the newest construction accommodations. It was spacious and clean with a touch of elegance. Each cabin is quite different so look over the options carefully.

Our view from Cabin #3 was spectacular!






Lung Cancer and why a trip to Lake Tahoe happened three years later than planned.

The trip to Lake Tahoe in July, 2018 was exactly three years later than planned. In April of 2015, I secured flights and hotel reservations to Truckee, an area of California we had not seen. The area was on an extensive Places-To-Experience List which we turned to often. David struggled with recurring pneumonia, multiple lung biopsies, and heart surgery after a severe complication with a bacterial infection. When those big health challenges happen, the Travel Bucket List gets real serious real fast.

The vacation was booked for the first week of July (2015) so we could participate in Fourth of July activities. David was feeling so much better and we thought the worst was behind us because scan after scan had returned with no clear cancer diagnosis. Then we received a call on June 16, 2015 from the Surgeon that had closely monitored David’s health as part of an interdisciplinary team. The surgeon and care team had previously advised that removal of a lung lobe was premature until we had more information. The results of David’s recent CT scan suggested it was time to get that information, and another diagnostic lung surgery was scheduled…

Cancelling the trip to Tahoe was the least of our concerns as we prepared for another major surgery. The Stage IV lung cancer diagnosis was delivered while David was still in the operating room. It was July 6, 2015.

The surgeon talked with me and our daughter Nicole in one of those small rooms they use for these conversations. We got our son Tony on the phone too. “We did find lung cancer; and it has metastasized. It is inoperable and we need to wait for the pathology report to determine the best therapy.” We were in shock; responding with disbelief and anger. I kept asking “How can this possibly be? He has STAGE IV lung cancer?  What the hell happened?!!”

We are grateful that David is doing remarkably well three years later and although he is no longer working, he is living and feeling better than expected. He is fighting his way through changes in therapies and the nasty side effects of chemotherapy.

We keep moving forward with travel as he can tolerate. One of the biggest adventures has been David’s road trip from Minnesota to the west coast and back home. He visited friends and family, he loved it! I met up with him for the part we intended to do back in 2015. It was magical, starting with a few days in Tahoe then driving up the Pacific Coast.


Is it in California or Nevada?

It’s both. And I admit the location of the lake confused me until I saw this map on the Lake Tahoe Visitor Bureau website.

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The lake is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and anchored by South Tahoe and North Tahoe.


The Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe has an expected mountain lodge esthetic - I’d call it casual and a little over-rated compared to some of their other resort properties. The features that make it unique are gas fireplaces and ceiling-to-floor windows in every room making them feel extra cozy. Since David had been driving for weeks he needed to recharge, and after staying in hotels with really bad mattresses on his route he was elated for a couple naps and nights of great sleep. Outside is where I spent most of my time.

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The Mountaintop Views

The views are worth the drive to get there, they were worth the three year wait to get there. Walking is my thing and I’m content to walk for miles and miles solo, especially when this is all around.


King’s Beach

Truckee is on the north side of the lake and a pretty 30 minute drive to King’s Beach. It would be easy to spend a week exploring the lake perimeter. We landed in King’s Beach when David surprised me with an evening on a catamaran to watch fireworks. So a few year later than planned, I watched the water bounce light, then the sun drop into the tree tops and the sky light up with fireworks. Some tears of joy happened.

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 David Eric Oliver, Lake Tahoe (July 5, 2018)

David Eric Oliver, Lake Tahoe (July 5, 2018)




Her name is Yudi.

Her company is Simply Me by Grace so she is not surprised that many acquaintances think her first name must be Grace.

No, it’s Yudi Escoto.

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Yudi’s smile is bright and her enthusiasm even brighter, well just look at her beautiful parents!

We met in June, 2018 and I could see the potential for her newly launched business, a line of clothing made in Italy with fine silk and cotton. I love supporting women that boldly try something different and fresh so offered my home for her second home show. She kept saying thank you, thank you but it was Yudi, her family and friends that pulled the event together. More than anything, Yudi wants women to feel great about what they are wearing.

This was her first fashion show. Definitely not her last.

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North Oaks Hill Farm Historical Society Annual Farm Fest September 9, 2018

The Hill Farm Historical Society preserves James J. Hill's legacy of innovation on over five acres that includes the dairy, blacksmith shop, and the signature "red barn," which served as the granary.  The buildings are on the Register of Historic Places and an annual festival raises funds to ensure they are properly maintained. 

It was a sunny September day, perfect for families and friends to take in all the activity: live music, farm animals to feed, ponies to ride, blacksmith demonstrations, a market with produce and crafts, kid’s games and bouncy houses, plus a huge silent auction in the barn and exhibits depicting life on the Hill Farm. My grandchildren attended (Brooke is the first picture and James is the last picture) and proclaimed the afternoon was ‘GREAT!!!’

Photography by Julie Oliver for North Oaks Living Magazine


Hope to see you there next year!

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Como Conservatory: Two Acres under glass

What an honor to spend time with Tina Dombroski, Head Horticulturalist of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, and Laurel Lundberg, Director of Giving, on May Day. 

Tina (pictured) has been with the Conservatory for nine years.  Prior to coming to Minnesota she spent time in New York and Texas, and prior to this role she worked at Kew Royal Botanical Gardens in West Sussex.  Tina and Laurel were so gracious with their time and our many questions.

Some  things you may not know about the Conservatory that I found of interest:

  • There are two acres of plants under glass.

  • Lilies are showcased in every Sunken Garden Show except the Autumn Show because they suit the Victorian-style design of that building beautifully and they are a favorite of the lead gardener.

  • Following the Macy's Bachmann Flower Show the Conservatory gardeners have first pick of the remaining flowers to bring to the Como gardens.

  • There are two working greenhouses where plants are cared for on huge rolling metal racks. The racks mobility makes for savings in square footage, moving them left and right to create aisle space.

  • The flagstone throughout the conservatory was installed in the 1920s and cost $58,000.

  • The Conservatory was built a century ago and this King Sage Cycadaceae tree pre-dates the building.


As an avid gardener and working in the field this was a special tour for me.  I recall entering the doors of the conservatory as a little girl, likely holding my mom's hand.  Huge thanks to a dear friend, Anne Sundal, for making the arrangements for a wonderful day.

This is a momentous year for the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory as visitors, staff and the state of Minnesota celebrate its 100th anniversary!  Part of the celebration includes the planting of a centennial garden which you can watch take form over the next six weeks.  June 19 - 21 is the Centennial Celebration Kickoff Weekend with music, movies, gardener talks and demonstrations.