Sunday, August 31, 2014

Summer Bucket List Wrap-Up

I can't believe it's Labor Day weekend- the official end of summer. It's the last day of August. Tomorrow is September! I'm a little sad (the summer went quickly, and when summer is over it's hard to not think about how frigid cold is just around the corner), but I think I'm ready for a change of season. I definitely helps that I LOVE fall.

As you recall, I set out a Summer Bucket List at the beginning of the summer. I don't think I mentioned it at the time, but the list was certainly not an exhaustive list of all the must do things for the summer (if it was it would have included a trip to the State Fair, Renaissance Fest, a trip or two to our favorite lakes, etc.). This was simply a list of NEW things to do...things I haven't done in a long time...or haven't EVER done that I've wanted to do for awhile.

As much as I HATE to say this (overachiever here), I didn't quite finish my list. I missed two less so (keep reading). Here's where everything ended up...

1. Stand-up Paddleboarding Hooray! This is in the green. I tried stand-up paddleboarding with the WOWZAs as part of our cabin weekend. Even with a little "incident," I had a great time. I hope to try it again next summer...and maybe even get my own some day!
2. Go to AT LEAST one parade Another one in the green! We went to two parades this summer - the Edina parade on the 4th of July and the Art Car Parade by Lake Harriet. Read more about the experiences here and here
3. Eat at Sea Salt This one made it into the green, but just barely. Stay tuned for a full report.
4. Eat at Sand Castle We enjoyed a rather impromptu family dinner at Sand Castle a few weeks ago. Read about it here
5. Family trip to a Twins game This was a highlight of the summer for me. We took Linnea to her first Twins game in the middle of July and we had so. much. fun. Linnea exceeded our expectations of her, and genuinely enjoyed the whole experience. Here's a recap. Here's to many more years of family trips to the ballpark!
6. Bike to ice cream - at least once or twice We made it twice, I believe - both times just to Dairy Queen. I wish we would have gone further...or to someplace a little nicer, but we still had fun. And hey, there's always next summer, right? Read about one of our trips here. I hope to post about the other one at some point, but haven't yet. 
7. Go to at least one Tuesday Music Nights at the MN History Center  Here's where we go a bit down hill...and I'll explain why I'm marking it as yellow. So mid-August the Okee Dokke Brothers were playing at the History Center. The stars aligned...I had switched my late night that week because of Linnea's 3-year doctor's appointment...meaning that a little later Tuesday would be okay because we'd have a little more time the next day. We ate an early dinner, and got into the car and headed over. I was so excited. I had wanted to check out the Okee Dokke Brothers, whom I had heard good things about. I knew Linnea would love it, and it would be a nice night outside. Except that as we drove towards St. Paul the sky got darker...and darker...and darker. And by the time we pulled into the History Center it was raining. And it was mobbed, meaning we would have had to park a ways away and then the rain. So we scrapped it. I was really bummed, but I'll just have to add it to the list for next summer!
8. Mini-golf at the Walker This one is just in the red. No excuses. We were just too darn busy for too many weekends. We might have been able to make it work today, but we didn't try. I hope that they will recreate it next summer...add it to the list for next year!
9. Go berry picking Another one in the green! The three of us had a great time picking blueberries at Blueberry Hills of Stillwater. And I'm happy to report that we managed to use ALL of the blueberries we picked. Stay tuned for a couple blueberry recipes (that are part of my endeavor to make 20 new recipes in 2014). 
10. Go to the beach Although I haven't recapped this (yet), Linnea and I hit the beach together for her birthday. It was a shorter trip than I would have liked, but we had a good time. Add "more beach trips" to the list for next year!

So there you have it. Mostly a success...but not quite. We still have a really great summer accomplishing the above (and doing lots of other fun things). Now...bring on fall!! (Maybe another list is in order?)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Weekend Recap (and #4 from the Summer Bucket List)

Following my much belated recap of last weekend, this is the recap of this past weekend. It was a much lower-key weekend, which was's been a busy summer!

On Friday I made dinner (which is admittedly rare). It was another of my 20 new recipes for 2014! I've had a lot of fun trying out new recipes. While I cooked, all three of us played board games on the kitchen table. It's really fun that Linnea is starting to be old enough to be able to play games. She's been playing Memory for the last several weeks (and legitimately beating us a lot of the time). On Friday, we also tried Candyland. That was a little trickier for her, and didn't keep her attention as much, but I'm sure she'll get it before long.

After dinner and bedtime for Linnea, I ran to Target to pick up a few things, while Jeromy rested (poor guy was getting a cold).

On Saturday we were up as early as a work day to get ready and get on the road to St. James, MN, where my grandma lives. We made a quick swing through the McDonald's drive-thru for breakfast (don't judge), and committed a random act of kindness that had my smiling all morning, and made it there around 9:30.

My grandma lives in an assisted living facility in the small town that my mom grew up in. She turned 93 (!!!) last week. She's doing pretty well - in good spirits, and pretty good health too. It's always nice to visit her!

Much to Linnea's dismay, Grandma did not have any books. So she settled for a magazine (seriously, Time magazine and National Geographic (and AAA Living) are legit favorites of Linnea's. I think it's awesome. She'll look through the magazines, talking about the pictures that she sees.

Walking (or running if you're Linnea) the halls and checking out the fish were fun parts of the visit as well...

It was a nice day, so we spent some time outside too...

There's a park/playground just a few blocks from my grandma's place, so we were able to have a picnic, walk, and play time on the playground.

How beautiful are these two?? Seriously, my mom is one good looking grandma!

By the time we were done with our picnic, it was time to get back on the road (after a stop back to Grandma's place for birthday cake and one last picture). We had such a nice visit. My grandma is the only living grandparent I've had for almost 20 years, so I'm particularly thankful that she's doing well, and lives relatively close. I love my grandma! I'm so glad she can be a part of Linnea's life. (It was so sweet when we were at the playground. Linnea kept yelling, "Watch this, Gwwweat Gwwamma! Look at me, Gweeeat Gwwwamma!" So sweet.)

Four generations of love...

We were on the road by 1:30. I drove, and Linnea and Jeromy were both asleep within 10 minutes or so. Linnea slept for about an hour (she never naps great in the car), but was in decent spirits when she woke up, which was nice. We stopped along the way to grab a few geocaches, and then we made another stop at Minnesota's Largest Candy Store!

If you are in the Twin Cities and have traveled south on 169 you've likely past it - it's that huge yellow building on the west side of the highway. We've always been curious about it, but have never made a stop. We decided that as long as we were there, why not stop?

This. Place. Is. CRAZY. First of all, it's huge. Like huge. It's one giant room, filled to the brim with candy, pop, puzzles, and other random items. When we stopped, the place was swamped.

We made our way through the store, taking in all there was to see. There was seriously every kind of candy you could imagine - all sort of specialty candies, and from all over the globe. There were tons of different kinds of salsas, spices, and pastas. A feast for the senses!

The picture really doesn't even do it justice...the place was HUGE.

We were talking and walking like robots... :-)

 This was about 1/5...if that of the pop display! Every kind of flavor and brand you can imagine!

Cute Linnea story...I was carrying her as we looked at all the different merchandise. We saw a display of stuffed dogs. Both of us were immediately drawn to a little chocolate lab stuffed animal. She grabbed it, and immediately wanted the tag off (she HATES tags). I was trying to explain that we needed to leave the tag on because we hadn't bought it, when she yanked the tag off. I usually would have scolded her, but Jeromy and I loved that she picked out a little Luther puppy so we decided we'd buy it for her.

Linnea and her new Luther puppy...

By the time we got home, it was just about dinner time, so we decided to have a little family dinner date. We decided it was a great opportunity to cross another item off my Summer Bucket List - eat at Sand Castle!

We walked right up and ordered our food...Jeromy got the Indian Fry Bread, that was stuffed with ground bison meat. I got the arugula mozzarella wrap, and Linnea got a hot dog. We got some fries and chips to share.

Admittedly, we were a little less than impressed by the menu - there were only a couple menus that grabbed our interest. But we all really liked our food - it was really tasty, especially considering it's just a little beach side place.

Linnea was too busy eating to smile...

Cute little restaurant!

When we got home it was time for bed for Linnea. Jeromy and I crashed too after a long day.

On Sunday, Jeromy was feeling pretty sick in the morning...I think the previous day had caught up with him and the cold he was fighting off. So Linnea and I let him sleep, and did our own thing.

We got ready and went to church. Summer has been so busy that we haven't been to church very much. It was so nice to be back. Linnea LOVED the music. Our friend Christina played a beautiful violin piece that Linnea full-on ballerina-ed to. She even asked my dad to dance with her! He declined, but did help twirl her while he sat. The contemporary band came in at the end and played a song, and once again she was up grooving. I love my little dancing girl!

After church we swung through Costco to pick up a few things before heading home for lunch and nap.

While Linnea napped, Jeromy and I cleaned the house. We had a good excuse - we had a couple of my co-worker friends and their families coming over. (Anyone else like us where having company over is our best way to get the house clean? Our house hadn't been cleaned so well in a long time!).

Shortly after Linnea's nap, our friends came over. Anne, and her husband Dan and son Miles, and Lindsay, and her husband Mark, and their daughter Maddie and twins Logan and Lauren. We certainly had a full house, but it was a ton of fun! The kids got a long well together. I was so proud of Linnea - she really did a good job sharing - it's hard to share your special toys with new friends! We had planned to have a picnic, but with the weather looking threatening we decided to do a indoor pizza picnic instead.

I'm so lucky to have really, really wonderful co-worker friends. It's so awesome to have them in my life - and even more awesome to have the opportunity to get to know their wonderful families as well!

We all had a great time, and I hope it won't be long before we have another get together!

Linnea, Miles, and Maddie

We had a really fun weekend - and hope you did too! It's hard to believe summer is coming to a close! I'm trying to savor all of the sun and heat we have now!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Weekend Recap (Duluth Edition)

Yeah, I'm totally late on this...since this was LAST weekend. But we had a fun weekend, and I want to document. So...better late than never right?

So LAST weekend we went to Duluth! Jeromy and I both took Friday off, so that we could make it a little bit of a longer weekend. We headed out mid-morning. We stopped for a quick lunch, and made it up there around 2:30 or so.

When we came into town it started raining, so we stopped at the mall quick, and then checked in at the hotel. Since it was still raining at that time, we hit the pool for a bit. I REALLY wish we would have taken some pictures, because Linnea LOVED it. Lots of happy shrieks and smiles.

After our splash in the pool we got cleaned up and went to Fitger's, one of our favorite Duluth restaurants. Linnea was a little squirrelly, but it was nice to enjoy a nice dinner out.

When we were done with dinner, it typically would have been about Linnea's bedtime at home. But we wanted to stretch the time a bit since we were staying in a hotel, and didn't want to be totally in for the night by 7:00. Additionally, when we were at the mall earlier we saw that Barnes and Noble was having a Frozen party. Our girl LOVES Frozen, so we decided to check it out.

The party was fun. They had a little storytime, treats, crafts, and a sing-a-long. They even had costumed characters! Interesting story that the characters were not affiliated with Barnes and Noble, and weren't hired characters! I overheard them talking after the event, and they were just two adults who were Frozen fans who showed up! They turned out to be big entertainment for the gaggle of little girls that were there - they did pictures and meet and greet afterwards. Barnes and Noble really owes them one!

Linnea called them the "girl Elsa" and the "Elsa man." LOL!!

After the Frozen party, we made our way back to the hotel and got ready for bed. Bed time was one of the things I was most nervous about for the trip. Linnea was really little when we spent our last night in a standard hotel room, and it wasn't a great experience. I was running a half-marathon, and Linnea was up half the night crying. I was so on edge that she was going to wake other people up, and we had a really hard time getting her back to sleep.

I knew this time would likely go better, but I was still nervous about just how well it would go. It helps that Linnea is sleeping in a "big girl bed" now. So we got her settled in, surrounded by pillows. We had her pillow, blankie, and stuffed animals. We did our same bedtime routine. And headed out of the room. We were hoping to be able to hang out in the lobby, but the reception for the monitor wasn't good in the lobby. So Jeromy hung out in that area, and I sat outside the room. I got a few funny looks and comments, but it was actually okay. I brought my pillow and blanket out there, and just laid and read my book. There was a couple "Mama, I have to go potty"'s, but before long, she was out!

After a bit, Jeromy and I snuck back in, and went to bed ourselves. That first night, we all slept great! What a relief!

We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, and got ready for our morning with Thomas! We grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel (which was surprisingly really good), and hopped in the car to go to the train depot.

We booked our tickets for the first ride of the day, to beat the rush as much as we could. Even for the 9:00 ride, it was already a zoo!

We got into the gates and picked up our wristbands and event map (yup, there was that much going on!) and got ready to board Thomas! (Note: they had a professional photographer taking pictures. I had them take one, thinking it would be maybe what...$7, maybe $8 for a print? No. Try $19!! Needless to say, we just took our own pictures). Thomas was pretty cool. His eyes moved and he talked! Watching Linnea see that was really awesome.

Ready for the ride! Linnea was really excited to get on the train, but then was pretty underwhelmed (as were Jeromy and I) by the actual ride. It was about 20 minutes total, very slow, and mostly through the train yard. Wahhhh wahhh...

My girl and I on the train

After the ride, we checked out the train museum. Lots of old trains to explore, and a really cool, HUGE model train at the center of the museum. It was super, super, busy, but still had fun.

Once we made it through the museum (Linnea's favorite part was playing with the Thomas play sets), we headed back outside, where they had a ton more fun things to explore - bounce house, inflatable slide, face painting, bubbles, and more Legos and trains to play with. It was tons of over stimulation, but lots of fun too.

Linnea LOVED the bounce house and inflatable slide

My turn to pose with Thomas with Linnea and her painted face

By about 11:00 or so we had had plenty of Thomas fun, so we decided to leave, and find some lunch. We chose to head to one of our favorites...Betty's Pies! Yum! They have the best wild rice burgers! (It was my second wild rice burger in as many days, because I had one at Fitger's too. I think Betty's Pies version is my preferred good!!).

After lunch we went back to our hotel. We were a bit late with Linnea's nap, but we were all so tired that it wasn't long before all three of us were crashed for a couple hours. By about 4:00 Linnea woke up, and we (FINALLY!) had the opportunity to go down to Canal Park and enjoy the lake!!

I think Linnea would have thrown rocks in the lake all day if we let her...

This is what we ended up with as our family picture, since Linnea was being such a stinker about taking a nice picture.

Linnea loved watch the boats, and seeing the bridge go up and down. We walked around Canal Park a bit and did some shopping, and then had dinner outside at Little Angie's.

We went back to the hotel, and did our typical bed time routine. Again, it went well! This night we did not sleep as well. For some reason I was up EVERY hour of the night. I couldn't get comfortable. Jeromy was snoring, and Linnea was talking/making noise in her sleep. That, and the hotel was so quiet. I sleep better with some white noise. All in all, sleep in the hotel went well, and for that I am relieved.

On this morning, Sunday, we once again had breakfast in the hotel (yay free, yummy breakfast!), and got ready for our boat cruise!

Jeromy and I had gone on this same boat ride during our babymoon trip, chronicled in my old blog here.

The weather was really nice. Pretty warm, but overcast with a nice breeze. The boat ride was nice. Our tour guide was better than the last time, and it's always fun to be on the water. Linnea was a little stir crazy, but did okay, all things considered.

We got to go under the lift was fun to watch.

Such a pretty city...

This is how she spent most of the boat ride. Why yes, that is a teeny tiny little seam of the boat that she is insisting on standing on.

Don't worry, Daddy (or Mama) was always close by...

It's too bad she's such an unhappy child...

Family selfies... (us-ies??)

By the time the boat docked again, it was time for lunch. We debated for a bit about whether to eat in town before leaving, or to eat on the road. We would have preferred to eat in town, but when we wandered into Canal Park, everything was really busy, so we opted to eat on the road.

Random awesomeness - I ran into a neighborhood best friend from my childhood right after we got off the boat! She lives in CA, but was in Duluth for a family reunion! It was crazy, but great to see her, her dad, and brother (and his family). It had probably been at least 5 years...if not 10 since I last saw any of them!

We left Duluth just as it started to rain (good timing!). After a quick pit stop for lunch (and a few fun pictures), we were back home!

Although it was a whirlwind, we had a great trip. It was nice to get away, and always nice to be on our favorite lake. As much as we love Duluth, we are looking even more forward to our trip to Grand Marais at the end of September. It's much more our speed...quiet...relaxed... less than 2 months! Woo hoo!