Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summer Vacation

We did it!  We not only managed to squeeze in a vacation the last week of summer, but we were able to get the camping in that we had talked about doing all summer!  Score one for us!

Mike and I each had last week off and we were hoping to do some fun things with the kids before they headed back to school.  We thought camping would be neat and something we could easily manage for a couple nights.  We left last Sunday. 

Generally, we are overly anal on most things.  Big trips require excel spreadsheets.  However, little trips and little outings rarely get a moment's thought.  We didn't consider this a big trip so it didn't get much planning.  We also had our neighborhood party the night before we left; we were easily up until 2am.  We hadn't done ANY packing beforehand, though Mike had thought to pull our camping gear out of the attic.

That said, we woke up Sunday, asked each other if we were really going to do this and got ready.  We had decided to head to the North Shore to see Lake Superior and try to stay at Gooseberry Falls.  We picked up our kids from my parents who graciously agree to keep our dog while we were away, we headed home, and we packed.  About an hour before leaving I started feeling really awful; bad headache, awful stomach ache.  I was suddenly exhausted and snuck in a few quick rests on the bed between packing trips.  At one point Mike said, "Geez - you look awful," and I told him I felt awful.  But we packed up and headed out and stopped at McDonalds to eat lunch on the way.  We anticipated about a 4+ hour drive and it was already pushing 1pm when we left.  I took one bite of my cheeseburger and packed it back up.  Then I realized I was going to need a plastic bag shortly and started to quickly unpack some snacks that I had thankfully put into a gallon zip-lock.  And sure enough...as Mike was driving down the road, up came everything I had eaten that day.  After the first round Jake said, "Do you feel okay, mom?"  Mike advised him to just be quiet for a little bit.  Mike veered in the direction of the gas station, I got out, threw away that bag and got back in the car where Jake said, "Well, do you at least feel better now?  I don't like to throw up, but MAN! do I feel better when I do."  I told him I actually did feel better, then I passed out and slept until we reached Duluth.  Not the best way to start a vacation.  I can only think it was a little stomach bug; the same thing had happened to Maddie two nights before.

But we did make it to Duluth.  We got out at a rest stop to have a look at the view and collect some information on the area.

Maddie and Jake thought this thing was awesome...

It probably would have been cooler still if we'd had any change and they could have looked through it.

Maddie took no less than five pictures of Mike and I until she felt she'd gotten a good one - but she succeeded.

There were a bunch of rocks to climb.  I think they were more for landscaping than fun, but it didn't stop Jake and he asked me to take his picture.  Aaaahhh...the days of my kids asking to take my picture - I'm sure they are dwindling.

We got back into our car and continued north.  We arrived at Gooseberry only to discover that there were no available campgrounds that night, but that we could return the next morning to see if any were opening or at least to get our name on a waiting list.  The ranger advised us to drive even further north to a campground called Eckbeck where there were probably some openings.

Eckbeck is about 30 minutes north of Gooseberry so we were getting nervous we were going to run out of light to put up the tent.  We arrived and managed to get the tent up without instructions in time to also make dinner before it got too dark.

Eckbeck is considered a "primitive" campground: there are no frills.  The toilet is a hole in the ground covered by a "throne" surrounded by a wooden box.  This is far fancier than we had when we had our canoeing outings with Tracy, Rob, and Dad a couple years ago.  But...it took a little getting used to for Maddie and Jake - especially the smell.  At night, Maddie was very happy to hear that I would stand with my back to her and the flashlight behind me so she could see.  I told her girls had to stick together in these dire situations.  All in all though, Mike and I were completely happy with these accomodations and decided that we could easily camp our two nights there if we didn't get to stay at Gooseberry the next night.

And with that the first night came to a close.  More to come...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Neighbor's Putts

To continue our tale of our neighborhood golf night...

There were four separate holes, including ours.  We meet up with different couples at each "course". 

Our first hole was titled, "Repeat Offenders".  They took the games they've played the past two years and set them both up.  They also added a third game which I thought was actually pretty fun.  It involved throwing a frisbee through two poles that were very close together (as in - closer than the width of a frisbee).  On top of each pole was a plastic cup.  The object was to get the frisbee through the poles for a certain set of points.  If you knocked the cups off, more points for you.

We all thought this would be impossible, but yours truly proved it wrong.  The frisbee went right through the poles and knocked off a cup.  The one hole that didn't have prizes!!!

Some holes dressed up as a group.  Our group dressed in Twins gear or Twins colors.  One hole dressed in matching t-shirts.  Actually the girls on that team were all dressed exactly as above.

Our next hole was insane!  The details were tops! 

First we entered the front yard to the title...

Then another sign directed us to the backyard...beware!

This was their course...

They had actually mowed and spray-painted their grass.  They had also mowed out special starting spots for men, women, and pros.  Each color was a separate point value with the little red spots worth the most.  We are all curious how long this will take to grow out.

They also had quite the food setup -

Yes - that's a chocolate fountain in the middle.  Lots of fruit to dip in there.  Luckily they also had some pretzels so I got to enjoy it as well.

And they had this machine...

This machine came into play last year and there were more than a few of us hoping it would make a reappearance this year.  It was filled with pina coladas on one side and margaritas on the other. 

I believe most of us hit the food and drinks before actually playing the golf game.

And the details - there were these tiny hula girls made by the hosts. 

They were table confetti.  Confetti.  Tiny...

Sonny said she had a hard time after glueing these together because she realized the backs of the girls were naked. 

The next round was titled "What Happens in Shakopee Stays in Shakopee".  This is the team that had matching t-shirts made with a roulette wheel on the front and the title on the back.  Very cute shirts, actually!

You had so many chances to chip your golf ball into this large rotating roulette wheel!  Each section was numbered and even carpeted!

This continually spun around on wheels found at a flea market using a chicken rotisserie.  Very clever!

Afterward everyone ended up here swimming and hanging out until about 1:30am.  There was a repeat appearance of the speedo-clad neighbor.  This year he showed up wearing a t-shirt that just barely covered the speedo and Mike found that almost more frightening than just the speedo.

A very fun night that we look forward to every year!  Now we have to start brainstorming ideas for next year's game!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Batter Up!

We've had such a busy week and since I'm technically on vacation and since we are still so busy and since I don't want to spend too much time on the computer during the last few days of summer vacation, I'm going to post this week in short spurts.

First up:  Saturday night.  We had our 3rd annual neighborhood golf party.  This year we had five couples on our team and we decided on the theme "Twins Territory".  We recreated the new Twins Stadium.

Upon entering the stadium you passed some Twins History pictorial style.  My friend was in charge of hanging these.  She's from Missouri and her husband is a giant Cardinals fan.  You'll notice the red arrow pointing to the "1987 World Series Champs" logo that she hid behind our garbage cans.  She thought her husband would be proud since we wholloped them in '87.

Our main entrance.  I had nothing to do with this sign, but I loved how it looked and the fact that Mike and Gary were able to get it to hang over the entrance.

Let's get to the main stuff: food.  We had your standard ballpark fair: Cracker Jacks, hot dogs with fixings, nachos and cheese, cotton candy, peanuts.  All good munchies to go with the beer, pop and water!

Everything had a "Vendor's Button" to tell the prices.  I think we were fairly accurate.  At least that's how you feel at a real game...

Surprisingly there was very few actual "Twins" decorations any of us owned.  One couple had these three pennants that we hung over the food court.

The back fence was our dugout.  Gardy looked out over everyone and near the end was Joe Mauer.

We even had the Budweiser Deck on standby in case anyone wanted an aerial view of the game and managed to have "Minnie and Paul" on hand to shake if anyone got a homerun.  Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture after dark of the lights around the ballplayers and the lights off the deck.  Very festive.  And a pain in the butt if you ask Mike...we discovered early that we need a bunch of new Christmas string lights this coming holiday season.

We had each area of the homerun fence marked off so everyone would know their hitting range.  Accurate to a foot, of course.

Admittedly, our "hole" had little to do with golf.  Our neighbors had this contraption that popped a ball in the air and each player had three chances to score as many points as possible.  The only thing relating to golf was the chance to hit the ball into one of the innertubes serving as bases tied in the pool. 

Instructions were posted nearby.

There was an official scoreboard and each round won a prize package (containing "Big League Chew" gum) with the official "2010 Golf World Series Champion" logo that was sort-of hacked off the internet.  Mike wondered if he should look into a lawyer for copyright infringement. 

We had such a fun time planning this with everyone!  Next up will be the other golf rounds the neighbors came up with. 

But first, off to more of our vacation time!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Breakfast Rituals

Jake can't just eat breakfast.  Nine times out of 10 he has to be reading or studying something while he's eating.  Occasionally it's the paper (weekend...comics).  Occasionally it's a book.

Usually it's the back of the cereal box that he read the day before.  And the day before that.  And the day before that.

I came down the other day to find this:

Is it a real problem when he doesn't pull out normal reading, but just pulls out every cereal box in the cupboard?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dear Rachel Ray

I receive your Everyday with Rachel Ray magazine each month.  I'm signed up to receive it until November 2011 due to the amazing deal I got from the middle school fundraiser.  It's an okay magazine, though some of the recipes are completely beyond me.  Don't feel bad though - I find this to be true with many recipes.

In the middle of each magazine is a little tear-out set of sheets filled with seven recipes for the week as well as a grocery shopping list to make life easy.  I've only ever tried one or two of these recipes, thinking my family wouldn't eat most of them.  This week I threw caution to the wind and shopped for all seven nights.  Even with the list you provided I managed to forget a couple items but again - my fault, not yours.

I am going to have to take issue with one of the recipe's instructions though.  It advised to cook my six pieces of bacon in the microwave until crispy done - "about four minutes".  I took out my 14 year old, Pfaltzgraff plate that is microwave safe and placed the bacon on it, being sure to cover it with a paper towel to prevent splattering.

I did check the bacon after four minutes.  Nothing much had happened.  I took the plate down and rearranged the just-starting-to-simmer bacon and put everything back in.  I started the cooking contraption up for another five minutes or so.

There's some things you should note: 

1.  14 year old cookware does not hold up well to cooking bacon in the microwave for 10 minutes.
2.  It is hard to get crispy bacon in  four minutes.  10 minutes didn't even result in fully crisp bacon, but we managed.

Not to worry - no one was harmed.  In fact, it barely registered with me when I heard a small, low "pop" sound coming from the microwave. But, it is one less plate we now own to feed our family.

On the bright side of things - it was one less mess to clean up after cooking - and it was a big mess.

Please know, I certainly don't hold you fully responsible for this - the dishes are 14+ years old.  In fact, I've told my husband for the last number of years that our 15th year of marriage was going to result in new dishes.  Now we are one plate closer to having that be reality.  Though it is a shame that we can no longer entertain a full party of eight people.

And of course I don't expect you to offer me a replacement dish.  This Pfaltzgraff set is retired.  I mean - if you really felt an urge to do something, I wouldn't be opposed to a new set of dishes (possibly fiesta ware? Or white dishes?  I'm still trying to decide...) being delivered to our home.  I know "Rachel Ray" cookware generally is orange, but I may have to politely decline an offer of an all-orange-all-the-time dinnerware set.

I just thought your readers would be interested to know that four minutes is a bit of an understatement.  And they should be warned to not use their best (or only) dishes in cooking their bacon.

The chicken "taco" was an interesting concoction, though I think we will ommit the apple in future variations.

Kerry Murphy
(who can be reached via email regarding any guilt-gifts of new dishes)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Good or Bad?

I just took one of those crazy online tests.  I'm a sucker for them.  I rarely read forwarded emails.  I rarely forward emails.  But show me a website that wants me to answer 100 stupid questions so that I will know the kind of personality I have or the type of foods I enjoy and I'm all over it.

Especially if I'm supposed to be cleaning.

Anyway - I found one tonight that I jumped right into:  the 1930's Marital Scale.

I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight without finding out how I rated.

This was my result:

As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Poor (Failure)

I'm really not sure if I should be pleased with myself or sad for Mike.


And because I just know he wouldn't be able to stand a single minute not knowing his score, I took the test for him too.  His results were:
As a 1930s husband, I am
Very Poor (Failure)
We will ignore the fact that he scored a higher number: the important thing is that we would have been failures together 80 years ago.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Yellow and Blue Make GREEN!

We moved into our house when Maddie was almost 2 1/2 years old.  The first day she walked right into the room we had told her would be hers, she sat down at the bookshelf we had managed to unpack and "read" her books in the corner for hours. 

Her room was one of the first that was decorated.  I made a quilt and we had picked out colors to paint with.  Mom helped me sew some curtains and a bedskirt from leftover fabric and I even covered buttons to match.

That top color was supposed to be a dark rose to match the bedspread.  Maddie LOVED all things pink at the time.  I am not a pink fan at all so this was our compromise.  The yellow flowers were all foam I cut out and we pinned to the wall.

Fast forward 8 1/2 years and it was time for Maddie to get a new room design.  Understandably, she wanted something a little older looking.

She didn't want pink.  No more pink.  Instead she informed us she would like a room that had lots of green and turqoise.

The problem was that while she was excited for all this to happen, she didn't really want to invest the shopping time needed to find the right starting point: a bedspread.  I came home week after week with different bedspreads I thought might fit the bill.  Some weren't the right color blue, others had the wrong design quilted into them.  We did agree on one duvet from Pottery Barn we both liked that involved blue "bubbles" on a white background and green could easily be thrown in.  This duvet and one sham was going to cost us a little over $100 and I couldn't do it.

One day I found a bedspread at Target.  While it wasn't really something I was in love with - it has so much pattern - it wasn't my room, so I brought it home to Maddie and told her that she was GOING to pick out one of the two bedspreads I had purchased because I was done looking (and I'd run out of stores).  She loved the Target polka-dots and we I started gathering accessories as I ran errands and would throw them at her for approval.  Eventually I started to understand what her mind's eye saw.

Then we went paint shopping.  She knew she wanted a bright green.  She chose the brightest, most neon green I had ever seen and I about cried.  Then I flat out told her that I was vetoing that idea and we came to a compromise.  We found a color that was bright enough for her discriminating taste, and one that I thought would be far more mellow on the walls than she envisioned.

It wasn't.  But we painted the room.  I then pulled her aside and said, "I'm going to ask you this only once, and I want the truth.  I won't be mad.  In fact, I'll repaint today.  But, do you really like this color?"  She replied she loved it and that was that.  Then I went into the basement and prepared Mike for what he was about to see.

Without further adieu, here's the finished product:

These pictures DO NOT do justice to how bright this green is.  I had lamented to Tracy one day over email about this color and she must have thought I was exaggerating.  When she saw it in person she said, "Wow.  You weren't kidding!  That's some green!"

Mike helped me finish painting her room and said two things:  1. "It looks like Shrek exploded in here." and 2. "Madison, when you move out of this house, you will be repainting this room a normal color."

We did some of our own renovation projects.  That bean bag in the corner was recovered by yours truly one night.  I came up with my own pattern based off what I could measure from the bean bag (which couldn't be taken apart) and Maddie found the fabric.  Originally the bag ended up so tight that after Mike and I stuffed it, it stood like one of those plastic punching bags we had as kids.  Mike suggested I make one more panel and that seemed to do the trick to where Maddie can actually sit in it.

My parents gave Maddie their old desk which was white when we acquired it.  I repainted the desk and Maddie tackled most of the chair one weekend.

The lamp used to have a pink shade.  Maddie picked this fabric as well and one night I tackled this project.  Twice.  Then I redid it again when I messed up the top and bottom. 

The decorations came from Target.  This year their buyers decided turqoise was the color scheme for all college kids this fall.  HALLELUJAH!  One of Maddie's favorite things are the turqoise drapes that are room darkening.  We found tons of little baskets and bins in the dollar section that were the perfect compliments to her room as well as a desk lamp and some cheap wall accessories!

One of the deal-breakers involved Maddie's vision of polka dots lining the top portion of the walls.  I did not want to paint those again after having done the bathroom a couple years ago.  We walked around Michael's trying to think outside the box and found these cardboard circles pre-cut and in a package of 12 for 50 cents!  We bought two packs and some acrylic paint and spent one night painting these bad boys.  We attached them to the wall with pins and Maddie instructed as to how much to pop them off the wall for a cool 3-D effect.

Despite the fact that there is now a nuclear glow coming from the north corner of our home, Maddie loves her "new" room.  And slowly but surely, I'm coming around to the green.

Hopefully she will like it for years to come.  We've already told her she needs to love it for a minimum of five years.