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    Archive for June 2009

    Birthday Recap

    Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    Good morning!

    We started off the birthday celebrations on Thursday at Benjamin's daycare. Mike and I brought in some Go-Gurts (yogurt in a tube) for the kids and all of his friends in the preschool and pre-K rooms sang Happy Birthday to him. He loved it. That evening Uncle Andy came down to spend some time with Benjamin and then he took us out to Dos Amigos Mexican Restaurant for a dinner on their patio.

    We were supposed to go to the Rochesterfest parade Friday evening, but we decided to go a much less stressful route and watched on tv at home instead. Mike and I got the house ready for Saturday while Benjamin danced around to the marching bands.

    Saturday morning we followed with our tradition of serving Benjamin breakfast in bed on his actual birthday.
    Lately he has been in love with instant oatmeal, so that was what he requested as his breakfast. Eating in his bed with a tray is something that he just thinks is so special, it is so cute! After breakfast we all continued with our preparations for visitors by cleaning and getting all of the provisions for our family BBQ.

    Benjamin's party was at the House of Bounce this year. He invited a bunch of his friends, most of whom unfortunately were out of town this weekend, but we had a nice group of 5 kids. They bounced for an hour or so in the new facility that just opened earlier this month, which is awesome.
    The kids (along with Mike and I) were all tired, red-faced and sweaty by the end of our jumping time. It was just a joy to see them all having such a great time. The new party rooms are basically just little walled off areas with cubicle dividers separating each space. They provide plates, napkins, forks and ice cream while you can bring in your own cake or cupcakes. I made vegan cupcakes with icing so that Benjamin and AJ could both enjoy the treat. They actually tasted no different than a regular cupcake and I felt as though the icing was even better than standard buttercream (I used Palm Oil Shortening with powdered sugar mixed in). So delicious! Here is the cupcake recipe I made. I had to use corn oil because of AJ's allergy to soy.

    I put a lot of effort into making the goodie bags for the kids this year. Benjamin's birthday party theme was Superheroes, so I bought plain gift bags and dressed them up with logos from his favorite superheroes. For the inside of the goodie bags, I compiled a bunch of Benjamin's favorite songs (Backyardigans, Muppets, his music class, etc) onto a cd with a label that I designed.
    I also filled the bags with superhero fruit snacks, a pack of crayons and a pack of little dinosaurs that grow in water. I had so much fun putting everything together!

    Benjamin opened his gifts from his friends and then we went back to our house where we were having a small BBQ for grandparents and aunts/uncles. Andy, Jennifer and Jen came a little later and we all enjoyed a delicious Greek meal that Mike prepared. He made seasoned chicken with veggies and tzatziki sauce, an orzo, pea and pepper salad and a red pepper spread with pitas. So good. After dinner Benjamin opened even more presents, including the infamous drum set, and we once again enjoyed some of the cupcakes I made. It was a lovely day and lucky for us, the storms that were threatening to show up all day never did materialize.

    Summertime Chill

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    I am blogging from my deck while enjoying a gorgeous sunset, lit tiki torches, the occasional mosquito (okay, so maybe I am not enjoying that part) and a cold one. The day finally turned into something magnificent after we endured above 90 degrees for the past two days in a row. Not that I am complaining, because heaven knows that this is better than -30 degrees.
    It was so hot yesterday that I broke down and purchased a kiddie pool for the backyard to cool Benjamin and I down a bit. We both enjoyed splashing around in it for a while before Daddy got home from work.

    As you can see in my previous post about this weekend, we were busy but not terribly so. Earlier in the week, on Monday, I decided to clear out the house of all unnecessary items and put on a garage sale. I gathered all of the misc items and furniture we wanted to sell and organized it for our grand opening Friday morning. The weather looked like possible rain, so I put up all of the tables inside the garage in a nice configuration for those stopping by to see our wares. Friday's crowd was full of garage sale professionals ready to buy some goods and eager to make deals. But Saturday was the cleanup crew. We went into the day wanting to at very least sell the last few furniture pieces that were left, which we did.

    To celebrate Father's Day, Mike decided that he wanted to take a little road trip down to LaCrosse, Wisconsin Saturday afternoon. It was his choice to pick whatever he wanted to do, so he chose the Pearl Street Brewery tour, picking up food at the co-op and picnicking at Riverside Park down by the waterside. We have always adored LaCrosse and we had a great time visiting once again. The brewery tour was okay. We did get to try a bunch of their beers though and the price of their 6 packs was very reasonable. I won't go into it, but the tour guide was - um, interesting. As always the co-op in LaCrosse puts ours to shame, especially their prepared foods/deli section. Benjamin and I enjoyed sloppy Josephines, which were made from textured vegetable protein - awesome! Mike had a goat cheese and roasted red pepper sandwich on a delicious baguette.

    We had originally planned on camping somewhere near LaCrosse Saturday night, but were unsure of the weather and also unsure of how hard it would be to find an open campsite. But we came up with a solution. Mike and Benjamin put up the tent in our backyard and after all three of us sat around the campfire for a while, they both camped out in the tent for the night.
    I got to sleep inside. I woke up early and surprised them with a newspaper, coffee, chocolate milk and a bagel from the gas station. They were very happy and actually slept very well during the night. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and dining at our favorite place. I think Mike enjoyed his father's day very much.

    We have a very big weekend ahead of us. Benjamin turns the big #4 on Saturday and Mike runs his first triathlon on Sunday. We are all preparing for the weekend and can't wait to celebrate with Benjamin.

    Happy Father's Day!

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    What a lovely Father's Day weekend it has been. I'll do a full recap in a couple of days, but here is a taste...

    On Friday and Saturday we held a garage sale at our house to free up some space in our closets and rooms. Proceeds are going toward a fancy new vacuum cleaner and maybe a night out for Mommy and Daddy some day. After we closed up the garage sale, we headed to LaCrosse for some activities of Mike's choosing...

    Amuzing Race 2009 - Race Report

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    Mike and I along with our friend Nate and Mike's brother Dan competed in the annual Amuzing Race, a fundraiser for the Rochester Public Library. This was the third year for Mike and I to participate in the race, which is very similar to the television show, Amazing Race. Teams of four are given clues which take them to different locations in and around the city of Rochester where they compete in challenges and race to get to the finish line first. We always have an awesome time doing the race and this year was no different. Here is our race report:

    As always registration and the start of the race was at the library. We all gathered in the auditorium to review the rules and receive our first clue. In previous years we have tried to position ourselves near the door so we could be ready to run out and get a good start on the race, but in the past 2 years the first clue didn't involve needing to get out of the room quickly. So this year we didn't worry about where we were standing and wouldn't you know it, the first challenge had us all run upstairs with a definite advantage to those getting up there first. We had to locate two candy bars hidden somewhere on the second level of the library. Our team was one of the last teams up the narrow stairway and so we were left with locating the more cleverly hidden candy bars. We all felt very frustrated at first as we saw team after team completing the task while we were still wandering around aisles of books. It seemed like we were the last team to still be searching. Luckily, Nate had some keen eyesight, located both bars and notified the rest of our team. We ran downstairs and received our second clue which instructed us to travel to Peace Plaza on foot for the next challenge.

    Nate and I decided to let our more athletic team members do the running, so Dan and Mike set off for Peace Plaza while we got the car and met them there. Once they arrived, they had to search through a Post Bulletin newspaper to find a message for the racers. After some searching, they finally located a Lost and Found ad that told us to drive to the Girl Scout camp within Rochester city limits. Luckily I was aware of the location, so we were fast to set off in the direction of the camp.

    When we arrived there we were given the next clue - a Roadblock challenge, which meant that we had to choose between 2 challenges. We could either learn and sing two Girl Scout camp songs for judges or roast marshmallows to make and eat one S'more per team member. The singing challenge sounded like it would be faster, so we started with that one first. The two songs were the Brownie song ("There is something in my pocket which belongs across my face...") and "Make New Friends," which were two songs I know very well thanks to my many years as a Girl Scout. However, the boys on the team didn't know the songs and when we found out that we had to memorize them, we decided that making and eating S'mores would be easier and faster. It was a breeze for us and we quickly moved on to the next challenge on the clue we were given at the campfire. Next we had to locate 7 out of 11 trees within the Girl Scout camp that were listed on our clue and marked on the tree itself. We had to collect slips of paper with the tree names from a little pouch on each tree. This involved a lot of running around on very muddy trails, which was extremely tiring and even caused Nate to slip and sprain his ankle (poor guy!). We were able to make up some ground at this point because the guys realized that a whole group of trees were back in the campfire area from the S'mores challenge. Most of the other teams were still running around the trees when we finished and were given the next clue.

    Next we had to locate the Bookmobile somewhere in the small town of Byron, which is not far from the camp. We drove around for only a short time before spotting the Bookmobile, getting another clue and moving onto the next challenge. At the Byron Links mini-golf course each team member had to take turns putting onto one of about 6 greens for a hole-in-one. One person from every team either had to get one hole-in-one or if they could not, the teams could move on after 25 minutes of trying. Our team came so close many times, but we were unable to get that allusive hole-in-one, so when the 25 minutes were up, we were able to get our next clue and leave the putting green behind.

    From there we had to travel back to the library in Rochester. We got there quickly, snagged a parking spot from a friend and fellow racer out front and ran inside to find that a challenge was setup in the auditorium. A projector was showing images from movies and we had to guess the movie titles correctly. We only had one chance to do them correctly (it was at this point that I actually remember to take pictures during the race).

    There were 30 images and if you named 25-30 correctly, you could receive the next clue. If you scored less than 25, you had to incure a time penalty. The penalties were longer depending on how many you had incorrect. Thanks to our team's extensive knowledge of movies, we were able to get 26 correct and could proceed to the next challenge without a penalty. From the auditorium we then had to run upstairs to the library's parking ramp roof, which was about a 7 flight climb (more running!). Once up on the roof, we had to search the surrounding buildings and ground by sight for a race volunteer holding a bunch of balloons. Once again, Nate's keen eyesight helped us and we were quickly able to locate the balloons.
    Then we had to race by car to the location of the man holding the balloons and he would give us the next clue.

    The clue from the balloon guy told us to go to the Silver Lake Boat Launch where team members were to canoe or kayak around Silver Lake looking for a volunteer on a bridge who would hand them the next clue. I was very excited for this challenge, because I adore kayaking! I decided to "take one for the team" and do the kayaking by myself.
    It felt so good to be out on the water and I found it easy to paddle quickly despite being very tired from previous challeges. I knew exactly what bridge to paddle to and made quick work of getting out there, getting the clue and paddling back to the boat launch. Other teams seemed impressed that I kayaked alone for the challenge and I have to say that I was extremely proud of myself; it was so much fun!

    We ran back to the car and read the clue which instructed us to locate the Kutzky Park shelter. We had a vague idea of where the park was, but because Kutzky Park is split into two halves along a river, we unfortunately chose the incorrect location and had to turn around to get to the other side. Dan and Mike ran to the shelter to see if the challenge needed 2 people or 4. We all needed to do the challenge, so they waved us on. Nate and I drove the car over and hopped out to help with the challenge. We had to take uncooked pieces of dry spaghetti and gumdrops and create a structure that could stand 36 inches tall on its own for at least 30 seconds. We looked around and other teams were making cubes out of the materials, so we stupidly did the same thing. During our construction process, we realized that we shouldn't have worked so hard to make a cube, we could have achieved the needed results from a much simplier structure. So we modified it and quickly had our finished product. At this point in the race, we were pretty sure that we were ahead of most of the teams, but we didn't know how far ahead. We kind of pushed ourselves to beat this one team, "the green team" in particular who seemed to be pretty close to us throughout the whole race and so when we finished our spaghetti-gumdrop structure before them, we were pretty pumped! The next clue told us to locate and drive to the building under construction which is named for the first African American to travel to Antartica. At first we were all stumped, but after a few minutes of thinking, I remembered that the new elementary school on the northwest side of town is named after a notable black Rochesterian, but I wasn't exactly sure where the school is being built. Ironically, just as we were driving north on Highway 52 trying to figure out where to go, the "green team" passed us! We were pretty irked that they got ahead of us, until we realized that they knew where they were going! We followed them all the way to the new school, which was where we thought it was, but who knows where we would have ended up if it wasn't for them! A volunteer at the school gave us each a water bottle and another clue.

    The clue told us to go to John Hardy's BBQ, but purposely didn't say which location (northside or southside) to go to. We hedged our bets and went to the northside since it was closer to the school. The lanes heading south on Highway 52 were down to one lane and we weren't sure for how long, but the traffic looked bad. We took a detour to avoid the traffic, but we soon realized that the backup wasn't as bad as it looked and we had lost some ground on beating the team ahead of us. We arrived at the northside John Hardy's restaurant only to receive a clue that said we had picked the wrong location and we should drive to the southside location. At this point we were all very bummed. We knew we were not in the top 10 (the lady at the restaurant told us we were the 12th team to check in there) and we didn't think we could catch up with the "green team." But we did our best to get to the restaurant as quickly as we could anyway. We were just a few blocks away from John Hardy's when we realized that the "green team" was only a few cars ahead of us. Mike avoided a red light by cutting through a gas station (illegal, we know) to get ahead of them. Suddenly the race was back on for us and our adrenaline was pumping again! Mike had enough forethought to turn a little before the restaurant, which is not accessible from the side of the street we were on. Amazingly, we got to the volunteer, got our clue and were back in the car before the "green team" even arrived!!
    The clue told us to head to the History Center of Olmsted County, which we knew was where the finish line was located.

    Mike did some fancy driving to get us to the history center very quickly, we parked the car and we all ran like crazy people to the volunteers waiting outside of the building. We had one more challenge to complete - we had to correctly remember the sponsors of each leg of the race. Luckily we had been keeping all of the clues which had each sponsor name printed on them and we were able to quickly compile a list of enough sponsors to get the next clue, which told us to locate the picnic shelter and cross the finish line. We ran to the shelter just as other teams were arriving for the last challenge. We triumphantly crossed the finish line and learned that we were the ninth team to finish! Amazingly we DID finish within the top 10 AND we beat the "green team!" After a round of high-fives and a finish line photo, we "raced" over to the buffet table for a much deserved John Hardy's lunch!!!

    We didn't beat our finish from last year (8th place), but we managed to stay in the top 10 even with this being a much more physical race, having a new team member and one person getting injured. We also had so much fun, as always!

    Big Day for Benjamin

    Tuesday, June 09, 2009

    Our little guy has a big day today! Benjamin is moving up to a new room at daycare, into the Preschool room. Today is his first day of no longer being a "multi-ager." He has been in the multiage room since October of 2007, so this has been a long time coming. The process for moving the kids up to new rooms goes by birthdate, so because new older kids kept coming into daycare, Benjamin wasn't able to move up until now. But the good thing about waiting is that he is able to move up with a bunch of his best buddies, so he won't be the only new kid. He can't seem to make up his mind on whether or not he is excited. On one hand, he thinks that because he's a preschooler now, he can suddenly do things he wasn't allowed to do before he became a "big boy." Yesterday he tried to get me to lift the ban on watching Spongebob Squarepants, so I had to explain that he's going to have to wait a bit longer for that to happen. This morning he woke up and told us that he didn't want to go to preschool because he didn't want his friends to look different. Apparently he has it in his head that they've all aged about 3 years since last week!

    To honor this big step, Mike and I wanted to do something special for him. We took him to Target last night and let him pick out a new preschool backpack that he can use to bring his books for naptime and his show-and-tell toys everyday. It was a hard decision, but he went with the Batman backpack, a fine choice.

    I spent this weekend in the Chicagoland area, which was fun. Mom, Dad and I drove down on Friday and we stayed with my Uncle Terry and Aunt Clarice in their beautiful home. It was a treat for me to spend some time in the areas where I grew up, which have changed unbelievably since I lived there 13 years ago. Mom and I went to Kelly's bridal shower and Dad visited my Aunt Cookie (Marianne) whose cancer has sadly returned. It was a successful trip and we all had a very nice time. We were back in Rochester Sunday evening to enjoy Mike's cooking with our tagalongs, cousins Jeanne, Jordie and Joe who are in town from Hawaii. They're staying with Mom and Dad for a few days to get a taste of Minnesota.

    Mike and Benjamin spent the weekend doing guy-stuff like having a bonfire, visiting the farmer's market, having brunch with runners and watching movies. Although the weather took a turn for the worse (high temps in the low 50's), I think they enjoyed their weekend.

    Summer is in the air

    Wednesday, June 03, 2009

    I am having a hard time with this week's blog entry. I don't feel motivated to write it at all! Maybe that's because the weather is so nice and when I'm not outside, I'd rather be daydreaming about being outside! This weekend we hosted some family at our house for a nice evening hanging out on our deck, took Benjamin to see the movie Up with Mike's parents and celebrated our godson's first birthday. Mike and I even got to visit our favorite sushi restaurant for an amazing meal of specially prepared delectable nigiri at the sushi bar. I can still taste the wasabi! Delish!

    I am in the beginning stages of preparing for Benjamin's fourth birthday party. I cannot believe that June is here and his birthday is only 3 weeks away. He's having his first friends-party, so this is new for us. He is very excited. I showed him the invitations that I designed and he was very impressed.

    Mike's triathlon is the day after the party, so he is in the midst of his training. He purchased a new road bike on Friday and has been taking it out so he can figure out the gears and everything. So far he still loves it, so that's good. I have to say, it is pretty slick looking! Benjamin is SO pumped to "see Daddy swim and then bike and then run."

    I am off to Chicago this weekend for my cousin Kelly's bridal shower. She's the gal who was the little rugrat that would follow me around begging to play Barbies and now she's getting married. Unreal.

    Happy First Birthday, John!

    Monday, June 01, 2009

    Our oh-so-adorable Godson, John, celebrated his first birthday yesterday. I'll take the time to write a full entry tomorrow, but here are a couple great photos from the day...