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The Art of Reflection: How A Duluth Vacation Stay Transformed the Trajectory of My Year

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

For whoever needs to hear this (particularly for the season we're entering into): rest and reflection are productive; or so, I'm learning...

A hand holding a hydroflask coffee mug in nature
This Hydro Flask goes everywhere with me and remains one of my favorite beverage investments.

As the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Turning the (figurative) calendar page to November has begun steeping the most wonderful aroma of reflection in my life. Like the steam rising from a hot seasonal brew (spiced apple cider, anyone?), for me, memories waft the strongest in moments of rest. Perhaps this month serves as a reset button; a final, measured step to accomplish that last *big* project (or three), review wins and lessons, and consider the catalysts that will serve as momentum into the new year.


Part reflection, part travel guide (for those like myself new to the wonders of Duluth, MN), may your joy overflow in this season and beyond.


A Quest to FILL MY CUP

Looking back, I started the year strong in who I was and where I was headed. No audacious goal was too hot to drink in. To know me is to know I can operate from a 'gird up your loins' mentality in the face of most challenges, so I did not foresee myself exiting Q1 feeling like a crumpled, empty cup. I found myself in a place of exhaustion and stress that I did not know how to fully comprehend. When a February vacation prematurely ended in a rare and climactic health journey to recovery for my sister (the kind of front row seat no one prays for), I had nothing left to give.*


*To Cliff Note this story for just a moment, after winter turned to spring, my sister is, in her doctors’ words, a walking miracle. While she's not a life sharer OR social media user (we’re so similar! lolz), I’ve already told her she’ll have to chronicle her phenomenal story for the people at home one of these days soon. Until that day arrives, do know that she is doing amazingly well, and we’re just over the moon thankful and in awe of her fantastic team of doctors and the Lord Jesus Christ for her recovery. In the thick of everything, I may have never officially had the opportunity to thank each of you who sent messages, checked-in and showed so much love surrounding Michelle, and I want to thank you from the deepest depths of my heart. Please know that each note meant (and still means) more than you’ll ever know. Now where were we...


The unexpected chapter in this story was, perhaps, my own recovery. As winter turned to spring, I kept reiterating to myself that as long as I had my sister, once we returned home, everything (and everyone) would be ok...and life could (and would) immediately resume as "normal". Never having experienced a life event of this magnitude, I was in no way prepared to process all that had been simmering for so long. Like a newborn walking for the first time, regular tasks felt grandiose, and I hadn't the slightest idea what my next steps would look like...or when exactly I would be ready to walk again...let alone run at the speed of life I started the year with. For anyone who has experienced such a period in life, know that my compassion abounds. I suppose that is the wild beauty of life - to feel deeply - and to believe that as long as one foot goes in front of the other, we will be able to look back on how far we've come with immense gratitude to belong in the land of the living.


As spring turned to summer...and summer turned to fall, I entered a new season of my own: hope. It was on this quest of (quite uncomfortable) reflection that I realized there was one ingredient I had blatantly ignored in this recipe for healing: rest. Choosing to fill my cup from this abundant endowment, I knew it was time for a change in scenery. And I found just the spot, with my life defying best friend.



Brewing Comfort: Where to Stay for a Relaxing Duluth Getaway


Maybe we can blame my Hallmark movie watching habits, but I have always dreamed of staying in a quaint location (...that also happens to be within close driving distance to the comforts...and securities of life). Meeting all of the above boxes, my wishes came to fruition through the equal parts modern and picturesque Park Point Carriage House, under the North Shore Host Co. umbrella (aka the folks who own the Enger Lofts Hotel, Cafe and Marketplace)! To know me is to know I am usually an avid hotel stay enthusiast (I am a former Expedia employee who loves a good loyalty program), however this home was MAGNIFICENT, and better than any hotel I could have chosen.

Duluth Short-Term Stay Rental Home, Park Point Carriage House
Image of Duluth Park Point Carriage House, Courtesy of North Shore Host Co.

From the tiny touches (like all the accoutrements for Michelle's morning coffee) to daily walks to take in the St. Louis Bay and Lake Superior waterfront, being just over the bridge from downtown Duluth, we couldn't have asked for a better location. Within walking distance, I was also able to stroll the Franklin Square beach with my morning cuppa tea and that was delightful. There is something to be said for waking up to complete serenity. And after living in Seattle for a few years, being able to see ships on the water felt as familiar as visiting an old friend.


Stack of books and plants on top of a wood side table
Image of Duluth Park Point Carriage House, Courtesy of North Shore Host Co.

It was at this home that I spent a majority of my time reflecting on where I've been this year and making intentional next steps for where I am going. Doing this activity away from my daily distractions and self-imposed *must do's* of the day reframed how I am finishing this year (for a another post, perhaps). Though seemingly small, it was an immense joy to have such a lovely abode to call my own, even if just for a few days. I had to let out a sigh to myself because my sister has all but BEGGED me to set aside time for a Duluth getaway with her and every, perfectly legitimate, entrepreneurial excuse arose. It will certainly not take another near-death experience for me to schedule our next stay. My how times have changed. My unsolicited advice from all of this? Buy the coffee, take the trip. I now allocate a considerably larger amount of time and resources for the minute and major joys in life.


Awaken Your Senses: Feasts and Finds through Duluth & Beyond


I'm no food critic, but apparently in my world, good food is certainly good for the soul. With Park Point as our basecamp, here are a few of my most loved places that left an imprint on my mind (...and palate) that I need to go back soon for!:

〰️ Love Creamery's cookie butter ice cream (@lovecreamery)

〰️ Lake Avenue Bar and Restaurant for the Lake Avenue burger

〰️ OMC Smokehouse for the entire menu (@omc.smokehouse)

〰️ Flora North (@floranorthMN) was closed when I walked by but it looked so cute!

〰️ The Spice & Tea Exchange (@spiceandtea.duluth) felt like an aromatic candy shop!

〰️ At Sara's Table Chester Creek Cafe for the PANCAKES...and the maple mascarpone (@atsarastablechestercreekcafe)

〰️ Glensheen Mansion for the upcoming Holiday Tour (@glensheenmansion)

〰️ A roadtrip to the Lutsen Mountains (which are, in fact, mountainous and I was humbled!!). I saw Lutsen will be having their sightseeing gondola rides this Saturday November 4th & on November 11th and I highly recommend the experience!

〰️ Speaking of Lutsen, Fika Coffee was worth the pitstop - and the line!

〰️ …& pie from Betty's Pies…AND Rustic Inn Cafe because I had 2 slices from each and they were DIVINE (@bettyspies + @rusticinncafe)

〰️ Gordy's Hi Hat burgers, fries x onion rings receive honorable mention for when they re-open next season (@gordyshihat)



What did I miss? My suggestions book is forever open for your shares!


Stirring Up A Well-Balanced Life

Embracing balance, I also brought along a host of Sakara meals and beverages (love the tea and metabolism lattes x powder)...WHO AM I? Because sharing is caring, using the code SHAYLASAKARA will save you 20% off your first meal plan program or any wellness essentials if you've been looking for a reason to give them a try! When I want to lean into being plant forward without the fuss, or just need to hit the reset button on my gut microbiome, I opt for their 3 or 5-day meal programs (which usually equates to ~1 week/month). I truly believe plants are powerful medicine for the mind, body and spirit!

Eating a Sakara salad
Live footage of me eating a salad and enjoying it.

The Final SIP


It always arrives sooner than we'd like, doesn't it? To finish today's cup with you, the Plant Penthouse was built on the daily expressions of joyful living, regardless of circumstance; and I can wholeheartedly say I have a refreshed outlook on just what that truly means. Here's to turning over a new leaf, whether you are finishing, amidst or just beginning to drink from your fresh cup (or perspective) in life.


Big hugs ALWAYS,

xxShayla

 

The Plant Penthouse is a flora-inspired interiors and lifestyle brand founded by Minnesota native, Shayla Owodunni. Since Shayla's early days as a boisterous kindergartner insistent on wearing neon knee-highs with brightly-printed dresses, curating vibrant juxtapositions (like a tropical oasis in Minneapolis) has become a joy-filled way of life.


Through plant care education, home décor inspiration and tastemaking tidbits, this is our residence to reimagine ‘posh’ penthouse concepts for life’s everyday moments—because here, we believe there is opulence to embrace in each dwelling space; regardless of size, location or circumstance.


Shayla has contributed to The Jason Show, Twin Cities Live, Artful Living, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and Wit & Delight; with features by HGTV, HomeGoods, Apartment Therapy, Star Tribune, and The Wall Street Journal.

1 Comment


Shayla Owodunni
Shayla Owodunni
Nov 05, 2023

Such a joyous trip for so many reasons!

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