Claim Your Voice, Deepen Your Story, and Rewrite Your Life: Relaxing, Healing, and Empowering Writing Retreats

Jess Lourey was the first person to tell me I could write a book. We met at a workshop she conducted at the Moorhead Public Library years ago, back when I was an advertising executive and she was writing a series of mysteries featuring a smart-mouthed, small town Minnesotan with a penchant for Nut Goodies.

We kept in touch, and our lives have changed a lot since then. I traded a corporate life for a creative one, while Jess expanded her empire to include all kinds of interesting projects and adventures. (Seriously, read the bio she wrote at the bottom of this post.) Her most recent passions blend life, travel, reflection and creativity in a way that I’m especially excited about.

I’ll let her tell you what she’s been up to this winter. Here’s Jess!

– Alicia

On November 9, 2016, I was grocery shopping with my husband and son. I had woken up that morning to the disturbing news that Donald Trump had won the U.S. presidential election. He wasn’t my candidate, but that wasn’t the problem. At age 46, I know that you win some and you lose some, and that no political party has cornered the market on wisdom. It wasn’t even that the most qualified presidential candidate in our nation’s history, Hillary Clinton, hadn’t been able to break that ultimate glass ceiling, though that stung.

I wasn’t sure what it was, exactly, that had me feeling so defeated. All I know is that my heart was low as I walked into that grocery store, my son leading, then my husband, me taking up the rear a couple paces behind. I was looking at my husband’s back as he passed another man who was coming toward me. That man set off my radar even though it was early afternoon, in public, and I was with family. He was clean cut, middle class, perfectly in place in that suburb…but there was something about him.

And then, suddenly, he stood next to me. He paused. He sneered, grabbed my sweater, and yanked it before walking away. It took less than a second. He was a stranger to me, but he’d felt emboldened to take something from me—my feeling of bodily safety, some sense of self he saw in my eyes. I didn’t mention anything to my husband or son until we got home. They were outraged. I was heartbroken.

Because I had understood fully in that moment why the election had so upset me: unkindness had won.

I began to talk to friends and family about this. They all shared their own small, sharp examples of unkindness that they’d experienced since the election. It was rampant in my circle, and I knew why. The ugly, fear-driven side every human has had been given a voice and courage in the election of Donald Trump. If you live your life vulnerable, whole-hearted, in search of your best self, that’s hard news.

I stayed sad for another full week. Then, I was called to action. I shouldered some responsibility in the way the election had turned out—I’d grown too complacent, taken my privileges for granted—which meant I had some duty in fixing it. I laid my skills out on a pile in front of me. They are meager: I’m a great teacher, a writer, a connector. I have vision. I possess hard-earned tools that with only a little bit of instruction, others can use to heal themselves.

I piled it all together and realized what I needed to do: I needed to put my healing writing classes online so others could access them, and I needed to create an organization that offers healing, empowering, and relaxing retreats all over the world.

My foremost goal was to create the time and space for people to practice self-care. Play, laughter, good food, naps, creativity. We cannot let these be casualties of the time. My second goal was to help others to claim their voice and find their passion. If you are doing the right thing (for you) at the right time (for you), then you are a warrior for good, starting with your own personal evolution. That is powerful stuff.

Finally, I wanted to cultivate more stories in this world. Our stories connect us, heal us, create a global community, tie us to our history and chart a way to our better future. I’ve written 15 books, taught writing at a Minnesota college for 20 years, and know the ins and the outs of the publishing industry. I am uniquely suited to nurture writing and writers.

With those three goals in mind, I’ve put in 80-hour work weeks since mid-November. The result is these two websites:

Rewrite Your Life, a 10-module, self-paced online course that shows you how to select and then write your most significant story, the one that helps you to evolve and invites pure creativity into your life, the one that people line up to read. It is based on the process I spoke about in my June 2016 TEDx Talk and my book of the same name coming out May 2017. Our writing heals us, and heals the world.

Wellness Retreats for Women, an organization devoted to curating relaxing, healing, and empowering retreats for women (and a couple coed), including an immersive Rewrite Your Life weekend workshop in San Francisco in May, a week-long luxury retreat in Greece where you will find and honor your creative voice through a series of playful, artistic, and empowering adventures, and a 5-day London cultural vacation where you will read famous female authors, explore the locations where these brilliant women dreamed and wrote, and create your own inspired writing.

We all have a role to play in this new world. Mine is to help you to find yours, to tell my stories, and to make sure we have fun along the way. As a special thanks to Alicia, all readers of her blog are entitled to a 10% discount on any retreat or writing class I offer, using promo code WRITERSREADERS.

Kindness will win in the end. Fight on, warriors.

Jess Lourey (rhymes with “dowry”) is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing “a splendid mix of humor and suspense.” Jess also writes sword and sorcery fantasy, edge-of-your-seat YA adventure, and magical realism, literary fiction, and thrillers.

She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft’s 2014 Excellence in Teaching fellowship, and a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the 2016 “Rewrite Your Life” TEDx Talk. When not teaching, reading, traveling, writing, watching craptastic SyFy movies, or hanging out with her family, you can find her dreaming of her next story. Her feminist thriller, SALEM’S CIPHER, hit stores September 2016, and REWRITE YOUR LIFE, which walks readers through the process of transforming personal experience into page-turning fiction, comes out May 2017.

You won’t miss a single post when you subscribe to Prairie Style File. Just look for the “Follow Prairie Style File” sign-up on the right side of the homepage or the bottom of the screen if you’re on a mobile device.  Or follow Prairie Style File on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on Snapchat as PrairieStylFile.

Tag your pics and travel tips #PrairiePeople and #PrairiePlaces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You could inspire an upcoming post on Prairie Style File. Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved.

A Little Gift For You: Jewelry From Taea Made

It’s always fun to treat yourself (or somebody special) to something pretty. It’s even better when someone else picks up the tab!

This month I’m highlighting the new styles from one of my favorite jewelry designers, Emily Brooks of Taea Made. She’s been making fun, colorful fabric covered earrings and necklaces (like the one shown below) for awhile now.

But this winter, Emily expanded a bit. She’s branched out into leather, creating pieces like the fun painted pair of earrings you see above. I really like the look and texture of these.

She’s also started working with gorgeous glass that I just can’t get enough of. Fun Fact: The dichroic glass that makes up the stud earrings shown below is also used at NASA! So now you can wear something pretty that also has an interesting backstory.

If you want to buy yourself (or someone you love) some pretty things to brighten a dreary winter day, you’ll love this month’s giveaway. One lucky reader will win two in-stock Taea Made items!

You can see Emily’s newest collection of jewelry by checking out the link above. If you’re in Fargo on February 24-25, you can meet her and browse her selection in person at the Taea Made booth on the third floor at Unglued Craft Fest at the Plains Art Museum. “I love getting to know people who shop my products, and love handmade,” says Emily.

So start dreaming and don’t forget to enter lots of time to increase your chances of winning. This contest is open to anyone. You can enter through the widget below or comment below this post or on social media. You can also comment, like, share or Retweet on Facebook and Twitter as often as once a day to increase your chances of winning.

The contest ends at 12:00 a.m. CST on February 22, 2017. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What about you?
What would you like to add to your jewelry wardrobe?
Are you entering to win for yourself or someone you love?

You won’t miss a single post when you subscribe to Prairie Style File. Just look for the “Follow Prairie Style File” sign-up on the right side of the homepage or the bottom of the screen if you’re on a mobile device.  Or follow Prairie Style File on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on Snapchat as PrairieStylFile.

Tag your pics and travel tips #PrairiePeople and #PrairiePlaces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You could inspire an upcoming post on Prairie Style File. Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved.

F.Y.I. Emily gave me the jewelry pictured above. I like her stuff and am happy to promote it, whether she gives me pretty things or not. But I just have to let you know, because integrity in journalism matters, even in the littlest things.

Playing in the Snow at Detroit Mountain

My dad’s a grandpa now and I’m a mother. We both own our own businesses and have pretty much got this adulting thing down. But when there is snow involved, we have a combined mental age of about about 12.

He was the one that made snowmen in the yard with me and my siblings, took us sledding (you can generate some wicked speed going down a river bank) and taught me how to drive a snowmobile when I wasn’t much older than my toddler is now. To firmly cement my adrenaline junkie status, he also pulled me in a flimsy plastic sled pulled behind the snowmobile on a long tow rope as I held on for dear life. It was awesome. (C’mon Minnesota people, I can’t possibly by the only person with this childhood memory.)

This is probably just as dangerous as it sounds, but small town kids have to get creative and we tend to develop a high risk tolerance. My grandpa (my dad’s dad) occasionally regales me with stories of climbing water towers and jumping off bridges, so I guess risk taking is relative. Or possibly inherited.

So yeah, snow, speed and outdoor adventures made up a lot of my childhood. So it was fun to be able to return the favor and take my parents with me to Detroit Mountain, just a few miles east of Detroit Lakes, a popular beach town on the western fringes of Minnesota lakes country.

My dad remembers downhill skiing at this modest resort in high school, but it’s changed since then. It closed in 2004 and the community launched efforts to get it up and running again almost immediately.

When Detroit Mountain re-opened in 2014, it came back better than ever. It now offers a network of trails for snowshoeing, Nordic Skiing and fat tire biking and a large tubing hill, in addition to the popular downhill skiing hills. Since I’m a speed demon that also happens to be supremely uncoordinated, we were there to try out the tubing hill and cross snowshoeing off of my bucket list.

I arrived with Eli a few minutes before my parents drove up, so I grabbed two rental tubes took him down the immaculately groomed hill first. There are six runs, three with one pretty substantial jump and three with two jumps. And they’re fast. Not see-your-life-flash-before-your-eyes fast or anything, but enough to give you a little shot of adrenaline. (I took video for Twitter and Facebook, a feat that I apparently can’t do without giggling a little.)

My own daredevil child, who once scampered up a nearly vertical section of rock on a hike and regularly jumps eight feet down from jungle gym decided one run down the hill was enough. (And yet, he still wanted to go up the chair lift on the much taller alpine slope. Toddler logic is weird.) He really liked the conveyer belt that takes you back up to the top of the hill, though!

I suspect he would have gone again if he could have sat with me, but the hill has a strict one person per tube policy. There were other young kids on the hill, but most kids were between 6 and 12.

We all took turns running around with E and barreling down the hills. A two-hour tubing pass costs $15 (there’s a discounted $10 rate on Mondays) and we all thought it was worth it. And two hours is definitely enough time.

After the sun went down, we took a break for a surprisingly good chicken alfredo pizza in the smaller of the two lodges near the tubing hill. Both snack bars offer quick bites like nachos, soda and pizza and the larger one near the skiing hill has also has a bar where the whole family can gather. (And the requisite fireplace with an animal head over it.)

When we finished, I took my dad to hit the snowshoeing trails. My friends at Explore Minnesota dared me to try moonlight snowshoeing, so our trail passes and snowshoe rentals were free. If you don’t have your own, you can rent snowshoes or cross country and poles in the same place you rent downhill skis. There are also fat bike rentals onsite as well.

Once we figured out how to get the snowshoes on (the buckles on my boots made it hard to tighten the straps on the snowshoes until I shifted things around), we took off and happily hiked into the woods with only the vaguest idea where we were going. We had a map, but my coat was drenched from tubing (I wrung it out at one point), so the map was disintegrating before we even made it to the trail head.

I know that sounds like how horror movies start, but 1.) Nobody’s dad ever shows up in the opening credits of a slasher movie and 2.) The trails wrap around in a series of loops so we knew we’d eventually end up where we started.

It was a beautiful night, warm and still. Meteorologists had logged record highs all over Minnesota earlier that day and my phone said 36 degrees well after sunset.

The hoped-for moonlight never quite materialized during our hike, so we just followed the tire tracks in front of us. The snowshoeing trails are shared by folks on fat bikes, but we only had company at the beginning and end of our jaunt.

My gait in snowshoes felt odd at first — my hips have a crazy amount of natural turn-out, to the point that dance teachers assume I’ve taken ballet for years — so I had to remind myself to point my toes straight forward so the back ends of my snowshoes would clip each other and trip me up. But once I took a few steps, I promptly forgot all about them.

I forgot about what my feet were doing entirely, actually. The snowshoes made me feel somehow both sturdy and light on my feet. We took a few hills, but since it was fairly dark, we didn’t really feel it until we were already climbing.

It was a new way experience nature, hardly relying on sight at all. We concentrated on the feel of the trail beneath our feet, the hush of the woods, the soft movement of the trees standing in silhouette all around us.

About a mile and a half later, we arrived back at the ski lodge. There was loud music and an all-ages crowd gathering inside the bar, but outside, the night was more subdued. Small groups chatted around a bonfire as Nordic skiers glided by and snowboarders sent graceful arcs of snow into the night sky.

My legs were tired, but I felt healthy and strong. The air was crisp and clean, the band was playing Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” and the smell of wood smoke clung to my hair.

Moonlight or no moonlight, it was a beautiful Minnesota Friday night.

What about you?
How do you like to enjoy the outdoors in winter?
What crazy winter activities did you like when you were a kid? Do you still do them?
What do you (or would you) like to try at Detroit Mountain?
When you think of a Minnesota Friday night, what does it include?

Detroit Mountain
218-844-7669
29409 170th Street
Detroit Lakes, MN
info@detroitmountain.com

You won’t miss a single post when you subscribe to Prairie Style File. Just look for the “Follow Prairie Style File” sign-up on the right side of the homepage or the bottom of the screen if you’re on a mobile device.  Or follow Prairie Style File on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on Snapchat as PrairieStylFile.

Tag your pics and travel tips #PrairiePeople and #PrairiePlaces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You could inspire an upcoming post on Prairie Style File. Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved.

Stella’s Cafe and Bakery: The Perfect Winnipeg Breakfast

When I travel to a new city, I always try to ask the locals for recommendations. When a place comes up more than once, it makes my list. If it’s mentioned every single time, it moves right to the top. That’s what happened with Stella’s Cafe and Bakery.

When I was planning a trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba with my friend Liz this summer, we both asked for suggestions in our own way. Her coworker recommended Stella’s. My Twitter friends recommended Stella’s. When one of them (the effervescent Natalie Bell of Peg City Lovely fame) suggested we meet in real life, she suggested Stella’s. I was sold.

With nine locations in the Winnipeg metro, this local chain offers offers cozy little neighborhood spots to enjoy house baked breads, sandwiches, soups and delicious breakfast options all over the city. Stella’s consistently lands on those “best of” lists as the best breakfast in Winnipeg. It lives up to its reputation. This is simple, straight forward food made with quality ingredients.

Sometimes my readers rib me about covering “exotic” or “fancy” food. (There are a lot of proud steak and potato fans in the Prairie Style File community.) I like what I like just as passionately as they do. And I think Stella’s Cafe and Bakery is one of those spots we can all agree on. Yes, you can linger over a Salmon Benedict topped with spinach lemon sauce and fresh dill and served with a rosemary scone at Stella’s. You can also order eggs and bacon and a whole lot of black coffee and get in, get out and get on your way.

We opted for a laid back breakfast in a sunny nook that made the most of the light coming in from the interior entrance to the restaurant. The small dining area was busy, but not packed, and a steady stream of customers grabbed take-out orders and goodies from the bakery cases.

Stella’s offers artisan breads and buns, pastries, pies and cakes that all looked simple and delicious. They even had some bread varieties on the menu that I hadn’t heard of, which impressed me. I’m an enthusiastic consumer of carbs, so I definitely made a few notes for next time.

But since breakfast (not endless bread) was on the agenda, we had some decisions to make. I had the bacon and egg bacon and egg croissant (since I’ve never met a croissant I didn’t like) while Natalie and Liz opted for something sweeter.

The Maple Caramel French Toast is made with cinnamon brioche and topped with maple caramel sauce and wild blueberries. It looked gorgeous. (You can see a photo at the bottom of this post.) I appreciate it when a side of fresh fruit is actually fresh and not the sad, underripe melon mix we often get in the States.

The buttermilk pancakes were awfully pretty as well. You can add wild blueberries, bananas or chocolate chips to your order if you choose to.

But not everything is sweet at Stella’s. The non-breakfast menu is heavy on salads, burgers, chili, curry and noodle dishes, so some of the morning options pick up on this savory theme, like the Mexican breakfast (two sunny side eggs, corn tortillas and refried beans) and a promising looking Chorizo Hash with red peppers, onions and garlic served with salsa and toast. There are several options for vegetarians and vegans as well, from a tofu scramble to a Vegan Mexican dish.

The food was hot and hearty, the coffee was strong and the conversation was lively. That’s pretty much a perfect breakfast in my book. I’ll be back.

And I’ll definitely be asking Natalie for more recommendations the next time I’m in Winnipeg. (Fun fact: Natalie and I were once in the same restaurant at the same time, but didn’t know it until we looked at Snapchat later. We still find this hilarious.) If you like the kind of stories I write, you’ll like her and her work.


I make a rare appearance on my own site! That’s what happens when bloggers get together and there’s a second shooter along who hates being in photos even more than I do.
Photo by Elizabeth Mieke

I’m often asked how I discover the places I write about, as if finding local spots is some kind of magical talent. It’s really not.

Anyone can do what I do. Just skip the places you can visit at home and keep an eye out for something you’ve never seen before. Explore and see what you find on your own. Or read online reviews and see what people are buzzing about. Take a chance and try something new. If you get stuck, just ask the locals for help.

When you find yourself in Winnipeg, just start at Stella’s and work your way out from there. Canadians are among the friendliest, most helpful people on earth and they won’t steer you wrong.

What about you?
What’s your favorite breakfast food?
What does a place need to qualify as a great breakfast joint?
What do you order at Stella’s?

You won’t miss a single post when you subscribe to Prairie Style File. Just look for the “Follow Prairie Style File” sign-up on the right side of the homepage or the bottom of the screen if you’re on a mobile device.  Or follow Prairie Style File on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on Snapchat as PrairieStylFile.

Tag your pics and travel tips #PrairiePeople and #PrairiePlaces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You could inspire an upcoming post on Prairie Style File. Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved.

A Taste of the Prairie at Maple River Winery and Maple River Distillery

Prairie people have been getting creative with the fruit, flowers and berries growing wild here for centuries. The tribes that lived here first gathered the flowers and greens. Then they harvested the produce, consumed what they could, and preserved the rest as pemmican, a mixture of dried fruit, fat and powdered meat.

The European settlers who arrived later preserved the fruit and harvested the flowers too. But they usually turned them into pies, preserves and wine.

My own great-grandparents were no exception. There’s a graceful blue and gold serving set on a shelf above my grandma’s dining room table. Her fiddle playing, Norwegian-American dad used it to serve dandelion wine when the neighbors came over the play cards. The wines at Maple River Winery are an homage to this pioneer tradition.

Maple River Winery is located in the quiet little downtown district of Casselton, North Dakota. Casselton is about 20 minutes west of Fargo on I-94, and this hometown winery is a popular stop for tourists traveling across the state.

The shop located is next to an antique store, a classic, small town bar and Casselton Drug, which is stocked with an impressive selection of gifts. Grab breakfast, lunch or a gigantic monster cookie from Kerry’s Kitchen while you’re in town.

The wine at Maple River Winery is made from local produce harvested in North Dakota and west central Minnesota. The majority of the wine on the shelves is made from local berries, produce like plums, apricots and apples and even the dandelion wine my great-grandpa was into. Each bottle contains about 100 of the little yellow flowers.

Stop in and try a few samples to help you find your favorite. There’s also a good selection of Pride of Dakota products if you want to supplement your wine shopping with other locally made products. If you can’t make it to North Dakota, the winery also ships to several U.S. states. Check the website to see if yours is included.

Maple River Winery’s products officially range from dry to semi-sweet. (They’re listed in order of sweetness on the website.) But since I prefer dry wine and super hoppy beer, many of these wines taste quiet sweet to me. If you’re a fan of dessert wines, you’re going to find a lot to like here.

For a total taste of the prairie, start with the chokecherry or rhubarb wine. They’re my favorites in the Maple River Winery line-up and on opposite ends of the spectrum.

The chokecherry is dark red in color (it’s the wine shown in the photo at the top of the post) and it retains just a bit of the chokecherries’ tartness. The tannins in the berry skins add just the right amount of astringency to the wine’s sweetness.

The rhubarb wine is mellow and sweet, more like rhubarb pie than the sour/tart stalks of the rhubarb plant that it is made from. It’s light in color and ultra drinkable.

Some bottles feature the Woodchipper from the movie “Fargo,” which make it an especially popular souvenir. (If this wine seems vaguely famliar, it might because it is one of a few Maple River Winery varieties that have been featured on NBC’s “TODAY” show with Kathie Lee and Hoda over the years.)

If you want to try more distinctly Midwestern flavors, check out the aforementioned dandelion wine (if you can find it in stock), a blush made from handpicked North Dakota plums and a dry red wine made from aronia berries. There’s also a Juneberry wine, a few varieties made from local apples and honey and a lilac wine that apparently smells like the lilacs that scent the Upper Midwest for a few weeks in springtime. (I’m not quite sure how I feel about this, but I haven’t tried it. If you have, let me know what you think.)

If spirits are more your thing, head down the street to Maple River Distillery. The winery’s sister company operates a few storefronts down and shares staff with the winery. So if the door is closed at one shop, just head to the other and ask for a tour. Maple River Distillery offers a range of spirits made from many of the same local fruits as the winery.

Maple River Distillery’s chokecherry brandy was named the best distilled spirit in North Dakota by Playboy (an honor I find to be incredibly amusing), but there are lots of other cordials, brandies and varieties of schnapps to choose from. (Trivia alert from this trivia nerd: The chokecherry is actually North Dakota’s state fruit!)

If you want to try a spirit that screams “North Dakota,” try the apple schnapps. It’s closest thing you can get to the mind-numbingly alcoholic apple pie hochzeit schnapps made by sweet little German Russian grandmas all over the state.

The grandma version has such a ridiculously high alcohol content that nobody sells it over the counter, but this will give you an idea of the taste without knocking you out quite so quickly. (Although the staff at Maple River Distillery want me to warn you that this is nowhere near as potent as the homemade version.)

If you happen to encounter the homemade version at a North Dakota wedding reception, do not have more than one shot at a time unless you want to stand up during dinner, get the spins, sit down and immediately need to start drinking water for hours so you can be sober enough to drive back to the hotel after the dance. Let’s just say I learned that lesson the hard way. Those Germans from Russia do not mess around with their liquor.

What about you?
What do you recommend at Maple River Winery and Maple River Distillery?
Want do you want to try when you go there?
What wines or spirits did your ancestors make?
What do you think is the best example of a prairie wine or spirit?

Maple River Winery
628 Front Street
701-347-5900

Maple River Distillery
4 Langer Avenue North
Casselton, ND
701-347-9836

You won’t miss a single post when you subscribe to Prairie Style File. Just look for the “Follow Prairie Style File” sign-up on the right side of the homepage or the bottom of the screen if you’re on a mobile device.  Or follow Prairie Style File on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on Snapchat as PrairieStylFile.

Tag your pics and travel tips #PrairiePeople and #PrairiePlaces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You could inspire an upcoming post on Prairie Style File. Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved.

3 Trends To Try This Winter

I’d like to you all to meet a new blogger friend of mine, Lo Moran. Like me, she’s a Minnesotan who now lives in North Dakota and she loves supporting local businesses. Lo writes about fashion, beauty and life at thoseprettypieces.com. Be sure to follow her on the Those Pretty Pieces Facebook page and on Instagram as @thoseprettypieces.

Here’s Lo!
– Alicia

All words before the bold questions at the end of the post are provided by Lo Moran. Photos are by Andrew Moran.


|1| Button up skirt
This suede button up skirt from Kittsona is one of my favorite items that I have added to my wardrobe this winter. I have seen these skirts all over Pinterest and in magazines in a variety of fabrics. I styled it with black tights (because we live in the frozen tundra) but it would be super cute with over the knee boots as well. You could also pair it with a turtleneck, an oversized sweater, or a blazer. Basically, if you haven’t joined this trend it is time to!


|2| Faux fur
Faux fur was always something I wanted to try but was hesitant to jump right in to the trend. I saw a lot of ladies wearing the full fur vests and I just was not sure if I could do it. When I saw this vest with faux fur trim at Lot 2029 I was totally sold. This vest adds dimension to your outfit and is a great layering piece. If you want to go all in with this trend, Lot 2029 also has a variety of full fur vests that are adorable!

|3| Graphic tee
Even though I live in North Dakota, I am a Minnesota girl at heart. I am also an avid coffee drinker so when I saw this graphic state tee at Caribou Coffee I knew I had to have it. I love the casual look of a graphic tee and jeans. It is perfect for running errands on the weekends or lounging at home. Of course, living in North Dakota, you will want to add a cardigan to stay warm! chunky knits are super popular this season and would be a great addition to your casual look. besides your local Caribou Coffee, you can also find state apparel and graphic tees at Kittsona, Lot 2029, and Unglued.

What about you?
Which of these looks is your favorite?
What’s your favorite outfit to wear in cold weather?
What’s your favorite local shop? (It doesn’t have to be in North Dakota!)

You won’t miss a single post when you subscribe to Prairie Style File. Just look for the “Follow Prairie Style File” sign-up on the right side of the homepage or the bottom of the screen if you’re on a mobile device.  Or follow Prairie Style File on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on Snapchat as PrairieStylFile.

Tag your pics and travel tips #PrairiePeople and #PrairiePlaces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You could inspire an upcoming post on Prairie Style File. Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved.

Wanted: Walkable Cities

I’ve been thinking a lot about walkable cities lately. I prefer to experience a city slowly, at street level, instead flying by it in a car, en route to the next thing on the list. The older I get, the more I’m okay with not hitting every single “must-see” destination. I’d rather take my time and get to know the soul of a place by experiencing it on a more human scale.

Wandering helps me discover new places, look a little closer at my surroundings and connect with people — all good things for a traveler and a writer. Plus, I really like food, so walking is a good way to burn a few calories and get some mood boosting sunshine. I always try to stay in (or at least near) a neighborhood where I can park my car and explore on foot.

I wrote about downtown Fargo for a new feature called Green Travel Guides: Fargo, North Dakota this week. It reminded me how lucky I am to have this pretty, historic, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood right in my own backyard.

This relatively small geographic area is home to 79 retail stores (!) and 68 bars (!!!), plus concert venues, art galleries, parks and bike trails. It’s literally my job to know as much as possible about it, and I still stumble upon something new every time I go.

It’s my favorite neighborhood in my city and in North Dakota in general, although I’m happy to report that plenty of neighborhoods are giving it some competition. I drank local beer and took photos of street art in downtown Bismarck this weekend and showed Minot to my friends Liz and Naomi. They’d never been to the city before and downtown Minot, with its indie bookstore, restaurants, art galleries and shops was a nice introduction.

Downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota is walkable. So are the Exchange District and Osborne Village in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I rarely drive when I stay in downtown Winnipeg, since the bus is convenient and I can walk to almost everything I want to see.

Access to public transportation is an added bonus for me, but a necessity for travelers who can’t physically walk like I’m able to. When you primarily drive at home, it’s easy to forget about the bus or train system when you travel. It can really be liberating to forget about parking. And I know lots of people who get really stressed out about driving in cities, so public transportation is both eco-friendly and less stressful. (If you’ve never used public transportation before and you’re nervous about it, get in touch with me. I get emails about it a lot, so you’re not alone.)


Bismarck’s Art Alley is a work in progress. It’s different every time I see it.

I’ve like exploring The Greenway that connects downtown Grand Forks, North Dakota with its sister city of East Grand Forks, Minnesota. I love finding public art in St. Paul and interesting neighborhoods and parks in Minneapolis. All of these cities do a great job of integrating green spaces into an urban environment.

When I travel outside the Midwest and the prairie provinces of Canada, I’ll pay a little extra to stay right off the sand in Venice Beach, California. (We avoided traffic and literally walked to Santa Monica. It was fabulous.) A quiet moment in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris inspired me to start this blog.

I remember all kinds of fun, touristy, bucket list kind of activities from these cites. But when I close my eyes and conjure up my vacations, it’s the unplanned moments — a walk on the beach, buying prints from street artists and a fresh fruit kiosk in California and park bench sitting, window shopping and strolling along the Seine in Paris — that have the most emotional resonance.


The walking/bike path to Santa Monica and the beach were literally on the other side of this patio. You don’t get much closer than that.

Now you know the kind of travel experiences I like and the neighborhoods I gravitate toward. So where should I go next? I want to explore more walkable neighborhoods this year and I’d love to hear about your favorites.

And I encourage you to go out and explore your own city, state or province. If running this website has taught me anything, it’s that we often overlook great places in our own neighborhoods. You don’t have to go far to discover something interesting. And when you do, I hope you tell us all about it.

So tell me about your favorite walkable, both close to home and further away!
What do you love about downtown Fargo?
Which attractions did I miss in the story I linked to?
Which neighborhoods are you dying to explore?
What would you like to see me write more about?

You won’t miss a single post when you subscribe to Prairie Style File. Just look for the “Follow Prairie Style File” sign-up on the right side of the homepage or the bottom of the screen if you’re on a mobile device.  Or follow Prairie Style File on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on Snapchat as PrairieStylFile.

Tag your pics and travel tips #PrairiePeople and #PrairiePlaces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You could inspire an upcoming post on Prairie Style File. Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved.

Cross-County Skiing and Snowshoeing Spots in North Dakota and Minnesota

Cross-country skiing was on my bucket list last winter, but I got way too busy. So this is going to be the year that I (finally) try my luck on the trails.

I love hiking, and cross-country skiing appeals to me for many of the same reasons. I like the peace and quiet, being in nature and exploring places that few people see. I also prefer to be active in a way that doesn’t particularly feel like exercise. (Counting reps makes me cranky.)

I figure can’t possibly be a worse cross-country skier than a downhill skier. (I permanently benched myself after almost running into a ski lodge in high school. Seriously.) I guess if I’m truly terrible, I can always try snowshoeing. That sounds perfect for me, since it’s basically winter hiking. And I already love hiking. If I can’t make that work, I’m seriously in trouble.

Here are nine places in North Dakota and western Minnesota that I’d love to see in the winter. These are all spots I’ve visited before (although some visits were in warmer seasons). They also boast warming houses and rentals to make things easier for newbies like me. Be sure to give me your tips and recommendations at the bottom of the post!

In Fargo, ND
Edgewood Golf Course
This north Fargo spot is a soothing spot to ski. It’s technically in the city, so the drive time is minimal for most in the Fargo-Moorhead metro. But once you’re on the groomed trails, it feels like you’re far away from it all.

For winter festivities, come out from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays through the end of February, when there are free carriage rides. Then warm up with snacks and hot cocoa in front of the fire at the Edgewood Chalet. Youth and adult ski and snowshoe rentals are available.

Near Bismarck, ND
Cross Ranch State Park
Ten miles of groomed trails are about the only polished thing in this untamed stretch of the Missouri River, 12 miles southeast of Washburn. Soak in the wildness along four marked trails that give you a glimpse of what this stretch of river looked like hundreds of years ago.

There are ski and snowshoe rentals available on site, as well as a warming house for when you need a little break. To really get the most out of the experience, book a cozy log cabin or a cool, Mongolian-style yurt and stay awhile.

Near Valley City, ND
Fort Ransom State Park
Those who think central North Dakota is entirely flat will be surprised to find this hilly, heavily-forested park nestled in the picturesque Sheyenne River Valley 34 miles south of Valley City. Take the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway from Valley City or Lisbon and then check out 6.5 miles of marked and groomed trails. There’s a warming house on site as well.

There are also two yurts available year-round in the park. They both sleep up to six. If those are booked, you can check out this yurt that my friend Jo and I loved in nearby Fort Ransom, just two miles away.

A helpful hint: Your GPS will not like this place, so try to arrive before sundown.

Near Bottineau, ND
Lake Metigoshe State Park
Lake Metigoshe State Park is as pretty as a postcard in the summer, and it’s a stunner in the winter as well. Glide through aspen forests, frozen lakes and the rolling turtle mountains on 8.5 miles of marked and groomed trails.

There’s a warming house on the premises and ski rentals available onsite. If you want to make your wintery mountain getaway complete, cozy up in a cabin or yurt.

Near Grand Forks, ND
Turtle River State Park
This park is tucked away in the woods along the Turtle River valley, just west of Grand Forks. There are 7.5 miles of marked and groomed trails to explore and a warming house for when you need a break.

There are kitchen and banquet facilities for rent if you’re bringing a group. Don’t forget to grab a sled to check out the sledding hill.

The Greenway
More than six miles of trails start at Lincoln Park and continue along the Red River through the heart of the city. If you don’t have skis, you can rent from Scheels Sports Store (701-780-9424) the Ski and Bike Shop (701-772-5567) and the UND Lifetime Sports Center (701-777-3981).

Then when you’re done, just take off your equipment and warm up in the shops, restaurants and galleries of Grand Forks and its sister city of East Grand Forks, Minnesota. This trail is a little outdoor getaway right in the middle of a bustling downtown district.

In Moorhead, MN
MB Johnson Park
Rugged, rural MB Johnson park in Moorhead is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Located on the north side of the city, it offers a ski trail and a snowshoe trail (both 2.3 miles long) that wind through the trees along the banks of the Red River. (All of the photos in this post were taken here.)

There’s a warming house and snowshoe and ski rentals available from 10 from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 4:30 p.m. on Sundays. Rental season ends February 26. Only cash and checks are accepted.

Near Pelican Rapids, MN
Maplewood State Park
Maplewood State Park’s hardwood forests and pretty hills make it a favorite hiking spot, but many people don’t know it also offers a 1 mile 1 mile Cataract Trail and the 4 mile Grass Lake loops to tempt skiers during the winter months. There are even cabins (heated, of course) available Thursdays through Sundays if you want to make a weekend of it.

The warming house is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Ski passes are sold are the park office. No rentals are available, but the website indicates you can rent in Fergus Falls and Detroit Lakes.

Near Park Rapids, MN
Itasca State Park
For a bucket list winter experience, don’t miss Itasca State Park. Park near the East or North Entrances and explore 13 miles of groomed ski trails and additional snowshoe trails as well. The Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center serves as a 24/7 warming center that also offers restrooms, a gift shop and tourist information and many lodging options are available year-round.

Check out the birds at the bird feeders and see if you can spot any bald eagles overhead. (There have been several sightings.) And don’t miss the Mississippi headwaters. The mighty river flows over snow-covered rocks 2,552 miles before ending in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a powerful sight in any season.

What about you?
What are your favorite spots to cross-country ski or snowshoe?
What should I know before I try to ski?
What are your favorite outdoor winter activities?
Which one of these spots is your favorite?
Were any of them a surprise to you?

You won’t miss a single post when you subscribe to Prairie Style File. Just look for the “Follow Prairie Style File” sign-up on the right side of the homepage or the bottom of the screen if you’re on a mobile device.  Or follow Prairie Style File on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on Snapchat as PrairieStylFile.

Tag your pics and travel tips #PrairiePeople and #PrairiePlaces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You could inspire an upcoming post on Prairie Style File. Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved

Fargo Pinball: A Pinball Wizards’ Hideaway

Fargo Pinball is one of the Red River Valley’s best kept secrets. Tucked away in a nondescript office building off of University Drive on the edge of south Fargo’s business district (across the street from the Fargo Cork ‘N Cleaver restaurant, if — like me — you’re Midwestern and using geographical markers is how your brain works), this pinball hideaway flies under the radar.

That’s okay with the enthusiasts who make up Fargo’s members only pinball club. For just $45 a year ($20 to renew), they can play in a comfortable, secure location pretty much any time they want. Fargo Pinball is open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day.

Each member gets a key fob like you’d get at a 24-hour gym and can bring guests if they like. Fargo Pinball has nine of the top ten rated pinball games, favorites like Ghostbusters, AC/DC, Star Wars, Super Mario Bros. and Lord of the Rings as well as classics like Whirlwind and Funhouse. (I remember those two from when I was a kid.)

It’s a non-smoking, no alcohol, family-friendly place (the naughtier machines are set to the edited version) and the entrance is secure. There are even boosters for the kiddos, which my toddler appreciated. There are special events and tournaments too.

Every machine costs the same as it did when the game came out, between a quarter and a dollar a play. If you don’t have quarters on you (and who does, in this day and age?) you can pay using the PayRange app on your smartphone. It’s an easy and elegant solution to the modern “I never carry cash” problem.


Here’s my friend Emily showing me how to pay

PayRange also works for the vending machine. My friend Emily (whose husband Bill Brooks owns Fargo Pinball with his brother, Jim Brooks) used PayRange to buy me a a can of pop, because she said there’s really nothing better  than an ice cold Orange Crush when you’re playing pinball. (She’s not wrong.)

Fun Fact: The pop machine in Fargo Pinball came from Bill’s frat house at UND (Delta Tau Delta, if you’re curious) and it took some serious MacGyvering to get it back in working order. I’m not gonna lie, I kind of hope this post sparks a frat brothers pilgrimage to Fargo Pinball. That’s a weird and wonderful road trip prompt.

If you want to be a member of Fargo Pinball, I’ve got your hook-up! One lucky winner will score a year-long membership and a sweet Fargo Pinball T-shirt. All you have to do is enter to win using this handy dandy widget thingie. (If you can’t see it on your cell phone, there are additional ways to win listed below.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Registration ends at midnight (CST) on Tuesday, January 17. This contest is open to adults 18 and older who can access the Fargo Pinball site in Fargo, North Dakota. Like all members, the winner must pass a background check to ensure that the club is safe for everybody.

As with all Prairie Style File contests, you can enter to win multiple times a day by commenting on the blog post below, liking, commenting and sharing on Facebook and/or Retweeting on Twitter. You can do this through the widget above or on your own. Just make sure you tag me (my social media links are listed below) so I can count your entries.


Andrew W.K. is into pinball, sooooooooo….

How about you?
What’s your favorite pinball game?
Where did you play when you were growing up? (Or now!)
Have you ever been to Fargo Pinball?
Why do you want an annual membership pass?

Fargo Pinball
1133 C Harwood Dr S
Fargo, ND
Bus: Route 14

You won’t miss a single post when you subscribe to Prairie Style File. Just look for the “Follow Prairie Style File” sign-up on the right side of the homepage or the bottom of the screen if you’re on a mobile device.  Or follow Prairie Style File on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on Snapchat as PrairieStylFile.

Tag your pics and travel tips #PrairiePeople and #PrairiePlaces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You could inspire an upcoming post on Prairie Style File. Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved

Think Outside The Jewelry Box: 10 Handmade Jewelry Designers To Watch

If you’re stuck in the winter doldrums, try something sparkly. I’ve discovered some incredible jewelry designers in the Upper Midwest and the prairie provinces of Canada during my travels over the last few years. Somewhere along the way, I became a collector.

You can’t beat jewelry as a souvenir. It’s small, portable and you can wear it right out of the store. I like that I can support a local business and a local artist with one purchase and take home an item that resonates with me long after my trip (be it to another country or my favorite neighborhood) is over.

Quality, handmade jewelry is a work of art. These unique pieces are handcrafted from everything from gemstones and precious metals to leather and glittering crystals, so there’s something that works for everyone’s taste and budget. If you don’t find something you love, the designers can create a custom order just for you.

Some of these shops are my favorites. If you’ve ever stopped me and told me you like something I’m wearing, chances are it’s from one of these stores. Some are still aspirational, spots where I’m musing about the perfect custom design or dreamily scrolling through their Instagram feed because everything is just so darn pretty.

Here are some of my favorite shops and designers to help you add a little local color to your jewelry box this season. Don’t forget to tell me about your favorite designers and shops at the comments below!


Aerow Handmade
Lexie Rundquist’s jewelry line includes subtle earrings and dramatic agate necklaces, but the rings featuring jasper, polished amethyst, turquoise, opal and sea glass are especially stunning. These are some of my favorite stones and I love that rich copper color.

Wear one as a statement piece or layer for some serious drama. Find your favorites at Unglued in Fargo or online at aerowhandmade.com.

Michele F Designs
This Minot boutique is one of my favorite spots in North Dakota. Michele’s designs are a glitter bomb of boho goodness, featuring tough chains, sparkling Swarovski crystal, dreamy moonstones, tanzanite and other semiprecious gems.

The chunky, geo agate slice necklaces are funky and music festival friendly, while the layered necklaces are both feminine and a little gritty. That’s pretty much my style in a nutshell.


Liz W. Designs
Liz Walberg’s graceful, hand forged sterling silver, copper, bronze creations are staples at C. Lizzy’s, the downtown Fargo shop that she runs with her daughter.

NDSU fans (and wildlife enthusiasts) will like the dangling earrings and chunky bracelets adorned with tiny bison. I’m fond of the delicate cross necklaces and earrings and Liz’s other simple, layerable necklaces.

Regalia
Manitoba designer Alexandra Tumanov’s rings of delicately twisted gold and silver and gorgeous moonstones, pearls and even diamonds are inspired by the curves of designs found in nature. I bought a stunning tree ring with a single pearl at the Winnipeg Folk Festival this summer and I’m a little obsessed with it.

As an added bonus, her business is environmentally sustainable and uses recycled materials. Shop online at etsy.com/shop/alexandratumanov.


Annika Kaplan Jewelry
I found this gorgeous moonstone ring by Annika Kaplan Jewelry at Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis a few years ago and it’s been on my finger ever since. (The designer was super patient as I tried on a million twisted silver rings to go with it before finally deciding!)

I love her tiny, mis-matched stud earrings, cool, made to order hairpins and pretty, subtly eye-catching jewelry made of sterling silver, brass, 14kt & 18kt gold, and semiprecious gems. I clearly need to buy a few more pieces! Shop at events in the Twin Cities or online at annikakaplanjewelry.com


521 Handmade
This Fargo shop is best known for cute pillows and other home goods, but these super sparkly druzy stud earrings are such a fun find. They’re great on their own and look pretty dramatic when paired with a matching silver or rose gold colored clutch.

You can find yours online at 521handmade.com or at Burlap Rustic Chic Boutique and Unglued in Fargo.

J. Rose Designs
Designer Julia Knutson’s aesthetic is equal parts bohemian and tough — think beaded wrap bracelets, delicate midi knuckle rings and cool stud earrings made from bullets and fiery Swarovski crystal. (How do I not own a pair of these yet?!?!)

I basically live in my lariat tassel necklace by J. Rose Designs and I just ordered a leather tassel too. Julia’s also working on a cool wrap bracelet for me. I can’t wait to see it! You can order your own pieces at jrosedesignsnd.com or shop in person at Parisien Hair Studio and The Green Room in Fargo.


Wuve
Cari Ann Golden is a free spirit and that shines through in the bold jewelry she creates. The Fargo designer makes funky, cutting edge resin and gemstone jewelry for customers who aren’t interested in looking like everybody else.

Her bold pendant necklaces and drop earrings make a statement, but her rough-cut gemstone studs just might be my favorites. Find Wuve at Vintage Point and Unglued in Fargo, Red Brick Boutique in Ottertail, Minnesota and online at wuvehandmade.com.


Larissa Loden
This Minneapolis-based line combines vintage elements, classic shapes and more than a little dark and quirky imagery for an elegantly edgy look. If you’ve ever wanted pretty jewelry that features beetles, handcuffs and tough little daggers, this is the shop for you.

Even casual jewelry fans might recognize Larissa’s popular map lockets and pendants, which are available at stores around the region. The selection is focused on the states and cities around the store (Unglued in Fargo stocks destinations in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota, for example) but custom orders (and the full line of non-map jewelry) are available at larissaloden.com.


MBMB Made by Michelle Brusegaard
I seriously should own stock in this company. Minneapolis artist (and former North Dakota resident) Michelle Brusegaard offers all kinds of screen-printed goods that I also love, but her printed leather earrings are my favorite addiction.

Featherweight and seriously durable, they come in a variety of colors and styles. I get compliments every time I wear them. (And I have a lot!) You can find them at Unglued and at michellebrusegaard.bigcartel.com.

What about you?
Which of these designers is your favorite?
What’s on your jewelry wish list for the season?
What’s your go-to piece of jewelry?
Have you ever had a piece of jewelry commissioned?

You won’t miss a single post when you subscribe to Prairie Style File. Just look for the “Follow Prairie Style File” sign-up on the right side of the homepage or the bottom of the screen if you’re on a mobile device.  Or follow Prairie Style File on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on Snapchat as PrairieStylFile.

Tag your pics and travel tips #PrairiePeople and #PrairiePlaces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You could inspire an upcoming post on Prairie Style File. Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved