a day in stillwater, mn

by | Oct 19, 2021 | a slice of life, Favorite Things, Travel | 49 comments

For a few weeks now, Jeff has been trying to get me to go on a day trip.  As someone who is a natural homebody, the pandemic, lockdowns, and busyness have all made it easier to become even more of a homebody.  And I recognize that isn’t necessarily a good thing.  So, when some of our friends shared about the oldest town in Minnesota, Stillwater, Jeff decided we needed to do a day trip there before winter set in.  He has Mondays off, so he picked yesterday to whisk me away.  I packed a small bag with some sketching supplies in case we just sat by the St. Croix river for a while, but our plan was to hit some of the local shops, grab lunch, and walk along the river.

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

It was the perfect day weather-wise.  Clear and sunny, warm, but with a crisp fall chill in the air.  We were even treated to some color in the foliage, although it certainly wasn’t at its peak.

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

The town of Stillwater itself offered more than we expected.  Some small towns that we’ve visited in MN can have 2-3 shops of interest to us, but Stillwater has a lot of great shops including antique stores and a fabulous used bookshop.  It also has lots of restaurants to choose from, although many were closed on a Monday leaving the ones that were open with limited seating and longer waits.

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

When we first arrived, we walked around the Stillwater a bit to scope things out, crossed one of the bridges, walked along the river, and then went into Midtown Antique Mall.  This is a large antique mall, but it is one of those that you really need time to dig.  Some of the booths were neatly arranged, but most of them were packed with goodies in a haphazard way.  Antique booths like that are great when you have the whole day to do a deep dive, but we were just browsing today.

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

I ended up buying one thing (a brass ruler/ink blotter combination) and then we headed to the used bookshop I found online – Black Letter Books.  Oh my, this bookshop was an absolute treat and will be one of the main reasons I visit Stillwater regularly.  I learned that the owner is an art lover, which explained the robust collection of art books.  Most used book stores I have visited offer a pretty limited selection of art, design, and decorating books, so I was thrilled when the inventory of this shop was so in line with my interests.

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

I had to settle on the floor to look thoroughly through the art section, making sure I didn’t miss any books I might want.  Any other bookstore floor-sitters out there?  I’m in my 40s and I still haven’t grown out of that!

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

I didn’t even look through the entire bookstore since I spent so much time in the art section, but I can say that a book-lover could spend hours in there!  It’s small but has such a great selection of books to peruse.  We didn’t go to Stillwater for me to sit on the floor of a bookstore all day, though.

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

I made my selections and Jeff carried the books back to the car for me…

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

He said he needs to bring a backpack or a rolling suitcase next time we go to that store, which I already warned him would be at least once a year.

After looking at a few different restaurant options around Stillwater, we decided to grab lunch at Mon Petit Cheri, a little French cafe.

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

It had great ambiance and amazing food.

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

My rosemary biscuits & gravy ended up being lunch and dinner.  Jeff got a turkey BLT that he said was among the best sandwiches he’s ever had.

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

After lunch, we walked around the town a bit more and went into American Gothic Antiques on Stillwater’s Main St.

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

Believe it or not, I didn’t buy any textiles, although I loved this neutral antique quilt…

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

…and I didn’t buy any ironstone, even though this was clearly “my section.”  I just have so much ironstone that I’m to the stage in my collection that I can only justify buying something if it’s very special or it’s unlike anything I already have.  I did take plenty of time to admire all of these beautiful pitchers, though.  Most of them were priced around $100, which isn’t unreasonable, but it’s a lot more than I usually pay.

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

I did, however, find something that made me shake with excitement.  In the corner of an unassuming booth was a couple of low bookshelves.  I noticed a few of them were art books, so I leaned in for a closer look and realized they were all vintage art books.  All of them…hundreds of them!  I moved things out of the way and settled on the floor again to look through every book.  This picture only shows about a third of the collection…

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

As I started looking through the books, I saw that the prices ranged from $4-10 with the majority of the books being $4-6.  Well, I’m going to be parked here for a while!  Jeff peeked in on me and I waved him over to whisper, “These are all vintage art books!”  Of course, I couldn’t say that too loud, because it might cause a stampede.  As soon as everyone in the store (and Stillwater) knew they were here, it would become a brawl for the best books!  The truth is that most of these books have probably been sitting here unnoticed for a long time.  Stuff was piled in front of them and they clearly weren’t featured as the top-selling items in this booth.  But my irrational paranoia set in nonetheless.

Jeff said he was going to go get a cup of coffee since he knew I’d be looking for a while.  Before he left, he encouraged me with, “Go ahead and load up.”  Even though he knows I have plenty of art books, he also knew this was a great find for me.  Well, don’t mind if I do. 

I ended up restraining myself somewhat and purchased nine books.  One of the books I was super excited about because it’s been on my Amazon wish list for over a year.  It’s called A Proven Strategy for Creating Great Art and the price has been hovering around $90-120.  I just couldn’t justify spending that much on an old, instructional art book, so I’ve been watching and waiting, hoping to find it at a better price.  And yesterday, that patience paid off.  I got the book for $4.00!

And Jeff carried all of my books back to the car again…

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

Jeff was right about getting me out of Rochester for the day and he was right about Stillwater.  We had a wonderful time together and it was energizing.  And, of course, I love that I found some goodies.  That was the icing on the cake of a good day.

a day in sillwater, mn | miss mustard seed

But, some of you have seen this coming…I am creating a wee bit of a problem for myself with all of the books!  I mean, we have a big house and plenty of storage space, but if I want to keep all of my art books in my studio, I am rapidly running out of room!  I view the books as my continuing education and I do get so much instruction and inspiration from them.  There are certainly worse things to have in abundance.

a day in sillwater, mn | vintage art books | | miss mustard seed

While I did get a couple of great bargains, most of the books I found can be purchased online used for reasonable prices.  Some are even just a few dollars!  These are the books I bought yesterday if you’re curious.

 

I’ve also been adding books I’ve bought to my Amazon Store.  You can see the Art Books (almost 200 of them) HERE.
You can find more posts on travel HERE.  

49 Comments

  1. Carol Polson

    Stillwater is one of our favorite ‘date-days’ too, as we live in Minneapolis and it’s only 45 minutes from us😍

    Reply
  2. Shannon

    WOW! Sounds like the most amazing day! Love the look of the town so quaint.

    Reply
  3. Jennifer W

    That does look like such a perfect day! You might have even encouraged another homebody, who has been even more so just as you, to step out and see what I might be missing, 😉😉

    Reply
  4. Cynthia F

    Oh, Stillwater is on my list. It’s so beautiful! I wish I had know about it when we where
    living in North Dakota. One of my trips to the cities would have had a beautiful side trip!
    LOVE your art book find!! Adding to my own wish list! I have a fine art degree, with a minor in Art History…so I’m always adding to my library. Art books are additive! 🙂

    Reply
  5. sandi m

    Those steps!! I looked up the gal who does this. Nice story.
    I see a library wall with a rolling library ladder in your future!!! 🙂

    Reply
  6. Carole

    Well I live far away. What a great idea to pick a small town and go check it out for a day trip. I will have to start that up as I almost never leave my house now.

    Reply
  7. Dianne

    All I can say is, you have the best husband in the world! What a fun day!

    Reply
  8. Laurie

    Oh my! I so wish you had made this trip two weeks ago! I was in Wisconsin last week and we drove over to Minneapolis, crossing the St. Croix River. If I had only known about this beautiful town I would have stopped there! Living in Georgia, I doubt I’ll be there again.

    Reply
    • Nico

      Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much Laurie besides the shops highlighted by this very nice article; Wisconsin is much better people wise, and having just spent two weeks in Georgia, I can say that it is better than both by a bit (the southern hospitality is amazing and people are genuine there-Minnesota nice is a fascade, too many woke-ist commies, and crime is out of control in the cities and catalytic converter thefts are legion in the suburbs, thanks to do nothing policies).

      I fell in love with Georgia though and think I’ll be moving there in the next few months.

      Reply
  9. Pamela White

    I love your finds! I especially loved all of the blue and white dishes. I probably would of still been there looking. I also am crazy about old Quilts. I am into making Quilts too. I always say to my husband it is cheaper then smoking dope or to anyone one else for that matter.

    Reply
    • Heather Coale

      I love this article. I shared your joy as I read through. As a daughter of an impressionist artist, I found your choice of books to be heartfelt and inspiring. It was a pleasure to read your article.

      Reply
  10. Kathryn Casey

    I feel the intensity of your collecting binges, having read you for years now!

    Reply
    • Miss Mustard Seed

      Oh yes! You’ve seen me go through many collecting phases and get excited about many bargains. The funniest may have been that huge load of ironstone plates that I had to make multiple trips to carry down the stairs at a thrift store. Man, I was sweating!

      Reply
  11. Eileen

    As a fellow bookworm, I’m thrilled with all your finds. I feel the same.

    Reply
  12. FIL

    I noticed DeGas in the bookshop.

    Reply
  13. Heather Quist

    You can walk the old lift bridge along a trail and over the new bridge. Around 4.7 miles as reported by one of the lift bridge operators. Beautiful walk and there are history boards and markers on the new bridge (Mn/WI divide).

    Reply
  14. Betty

    Love the story of your day trip to Stillwater! I live in Alabama now but grew up in Minnesota, and love the town of Stillwater, so quaint and special, lots of history there. Check out Hudson, WI across the river from Stillwater, another nice day trip.

    Reply
  15. Wendy York

    What a fun treat for you guys! Dates are so important for couples! 😍

    Reply
  16. Kari

    We were just in Stillwater on Friday! We were visiting our freshman at the U and made a quick trip to check it out. We ate at Lolo’s and it was excellent. Even my college kid thought it was a great town!

    Reply
  17. Diane

    How fun! Too bad I am on the other side of the country.
    By the way I would have no problem settling down on the floor in my fav section in a book shop, but the floor would have to be scrupulously clean nowadays.

    Reply
  18. Fran

    What a lovely day!

    Reply
  19. Mayanna

    I love Paris Sketchbook by Fabrice Moireau. I also have Venice and Rome Sketchbooks by the same author. However, the Venice one is in Spanish as I bought it in Sevilla, Espana.

    Reply
  20. Terry

    We have the pleasure of having Stillwater as our address now! We live less than 5 minutes from downtown. I go through withdrawals if we don’t get down there at least once/week! Thanks for visiting and come back often. There’s always something to do and a new restaurant to try!

    Reply
    • Tracy

      Sounds like a great day you two had. Even better when you find some treasures to take home with you. Did Jeff find anything he had to have? Is he a collector of anything? Or just the hauler 😄

      Reply
  21. Julie | Home On The Hill

    We stayed with friends in Chaska MN over 25 years ago on a trip to the US & did a day trip to Stillwater – it has grown a lot from what I recall, but still one of my fondest memories of our visit.

    That day trip also stuck in my mind as our friends lent us their car for the day – over in here in Australia we drive on the opposite side of the road, so you can imagine what a strange experience it was for us on the multi lane freeway trying to be in the correct lane for the exit! We discovered through experience that the exit signs off freeways in the US are not the same as over here, we get a warning sign that the exit is coming up, then the exit sign to the town/s you want to go to after that, nope, just the one sign on that freeway. Needless to say we got lost a few times, but in the end (once the stress of the moment has gone) it’s all part of the fun of travel in other countries.

    Reply
  22. Jeanine

    What a wonderful day and an even more wonderful husband!

    Reply
  23. Brenda

    I love it when I can find a deal like that! And I’m happy for you! What a great looking town.

    Reply
  24. Linda Dresselhaus

    I always loved a Stillwater day trip, too…so much history and great shops! You had some great finds!

    Reply
  25. Cynthia Johnson

    Marian!!

    I want to reach out and give you a big hug!!! Stillwater was a go to for my husband and I, and a girlfriend(s) and I. The river is so beautiful. My girlfriend and I went every December 25th for the day after Christmas sales during the years that the stores had beautiful imported items from Europe.. remember stores like those??

    I feel we are destined to meet one day.. being a little life long Minnesota girl who moved to Colorado (I’m sure you know this by now 🙂 My husband and I are now driving through Pennsylvania .. (we have a Class B vehicle and left home August 15th), one of my dearest friends lives in Rochester, and your cute hubby has a Colorado T~shirt on.

    Thank you for making my day.. once again 💕 And for sharing your wonderful getaway.

    Cheers, Cynthia 🙂

    Reply
  26. Gina

    Stillwater looks like such a charming town! What a fun day trip.

    Reply
  27. Sally

    We love Stillwater too! Next trip, in the summer , try the trolley tour, very interesting history of the city and tour of the older parts of the town. It was so worth it . We just did a day trip to Winona, beautiful parks and town .

    Reply
  28. Stella

    Marion, I was delighted when your family moved to Rochester a few years ago. My parents met at the Mayo Clinic and I had relatives in the area so we would visit. I was born and raised in Stillwater 60+ years ago, it was such a great place to grow up and it will always hold a very special place in my heart. I moved to the west coast in my 30’s and only get back to MN every few years to visit friends in Mpls & Stillwater…so many changes, naturally. How fun to read your post today and see Stillwater through your senses! Thank you especially for the photo of the Main Street Stairs!!! Although it seems like the stairs end at the top of the photo, that’s only a landing place with a concrete bench and the stairs continue up to reach to old Jr High School. You can probably imagine what a popular hang-out spot that landing was after school. And some days we’d descend to Main Street to have a cherry coke at Reed’s Drug Store, or the guys (only guys) would go to the pool hall. The bowling ally was popular too. Thank you so much for sharing this day-trip to a place so close to my heart.

    Reply
  29. Maria

    Sounds like a wonderful day! And it sounds like you need to think about expanding the art studio (or you can do some give aways 😉)

    Reply
  30. Nancy Johnson

    What a wonderful day! I love used book stores. I’m 75, and I still sit on the floor. 🙂

    Reply
  31. AnnTN

    We visited Stillwater 21 years ago. We were in the Minneapolis area to visit husband’s brother and family. I loved the little town then and I’m sure I would love it now especially knowing that it has changed a lot since we were there.

    Reply
    • Rita

      Looks like you had a wonderful time. Did Jeff find anything? I always like visiting small towns. You never know what you will see. My youngest has a mountain bike race this weekend in the western part of our state so I plan to do a little exploring. Pretty close to the Mississippi River.

      Reply
  32. Marian Zimmerman

    the picture of Jeff carrying the books with the light post and yellow trees in the background would make a great painting!

    Reply
  33. Janet Tluchak

    You have such a sweet husband!

    Reply
  34. Linda

    So glad you visited another of MN gems! Stillwater is beautiful in all four seasons. Be sure to visit during the Christmas season, it is gorgeous! Great finds make it even more fun!!!

    Reply
  35. Dakwerken

    The town is amazing. Visited there last year. I’m glad you had a great time.

    Reply
  36. Addie

    Ahhhh poor Jeff!!! He’s a keeper…for sure!!!!
    I love when bloggers show their buying/browsing trips from their towns or states. It is fun to see what is out there.
    Thanks for showing!!!

    Reply
  37. CeCe Hopkins

    Old books…
    Artists and art
    Thanks for this journey
    That showed us your heart!

    Reply
  38. Karen

    Have you seen the document on Benson? I see you purchased a book on his art. I highly recommend watching the documentary.

    Reply
  39. Margot

    I saw some Red Wing Bob White pottery I would have to check out! Being in Minnesota it probably isn’t the rare sighting that it is a little further south. 🙂

    Reply
  40. Deca

    I’ve been living in Stillwater for about 4-5 years now, I highly highly recommend stopping at Leo’s Grill and Malt shop! Best BBQ sauce and burgers I’ve ever had.

    Reply
  41. Lynnett Ratchford

    What a great outing! My husband and I call these “fun days”, and try to schedule one regularly. Here’s a thought: stack the books on the floor or the corner of a piece of furniture. You may have to loosen your rules about color or clutter control, but it’s one way to display and store extra books that won’t fit the shelf. Another is layer books in a basket on the floor. Oops! that means you may have to buy another basket…oh, my!

    Reply
  42. Patricia Kasparian

    You’ve described my idea of a perfect day! Congratulations on your wonderful finds 😉

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      It was a great day!

      Reply
  43. Crystal Brown

    I love Stillwater!!! It’s so charming. Reading about your experience makes me want to go back before the weather turns too ugly for me to get on an airplane for the 4 hour trip (one way) It’s so worth it tho. Your books were a find!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hello!

Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

facebookPinterestYouTubeinstagramfeedfacebookemail

Subscribe today

and receive a FREE e-version of my planning sheets!

decorating, projects, and recipes for winter

Categories

Articles by Date

 

our sponsors


Bliss and Tell Branding Company