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    Archive for October 2009


    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Dragons at LARK Toys
    This weekend we took a trip east to Kellogg, Minnesota to meet Mike's parents at one of our favorite local places: Lark Toys. The visit was made even sweeter because of our recent reconnection with a college friend, Miranda, who just happens to now own the store along with her husband and parents! We've always enjoyed Lark and have visited many times in the past. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it is a toy store on steroids. There is an indoor Merry-Go-Round, a toy museum, candy store, fudge/ice cream/concessions, two separate toy stores, outdoor mini-golf and just generally really awesome stuff all around.

    It was so fun to see Miranda and to catch up with her on the past ELEVEN years since she graduated from Winona State. She has a daughter who is also in a Montessori school so we talked about how much we are all loving school right now.

    Benjamin went on the Merry-Go-Round twice, once with Grandma and once with Grandpa. We all enjoyed ice cream cones and we literally spent hours looking at the toys. We finished our visit with Grandma and Grandpa off with a meal at a restaurant in Wabasha that Miranda recommended to us: The Olde Triangle Pub. It is an Irish-themed pub that serves all typical Irish foods, which was perfect on a crisp fall day. Mike's parents had tickets to see a play in Red Wing, so they had to hurry off after dinner to make it to the show. We drove back to Rochester through the winding country roads, which allowed us to get the most out of one of the last days that the trees still had their colorful leaves. Many of them had already fallen thanks to an unseasonal snow storm we had experienced on Friday.

    Playing in the snow

    I was home alone on Friday and was downstairs in the basement with the blinds closed so I hadn't realized what was happening outside. When I came up to get ready to go pick up Benjamin from school, I realized that we had quite a Winter Wonderland already. Driving was horrible. The first couple of major snowfalls always seem to bring out the worst in drivers and if they're not tearing down the streets at speeds much too high for the conditions, they're driving way way waaaay under the speed limit and therefore putting everyone at risk for getting stuck in the snow. Benjamin's school sits atop a HUGE hill and the drive up is treacherous under normal circumstances. The person who does the plowing of that driveway hadn't even connected his shovel-thingy up to his truck yet, so they couldn't plow the snow. They instead layed sand down and people were getting stuck and sliding back down. It was my first experience of driving my Rondo on the snow and I am pleased to report it did splendidly. I made it up that hill and drove the both of us home with no problem. Benjamin and I spent some time playing in the snow when we got home. After we were sufficiently cold and tired we went inside to make some hot chocolate and warm up. When we got inside I was surprised to find that our power had gone off due to rolling black outs from our power company. I couldn't even close the garage door, the furnace was off and I wasn't going to be able to make hot chocolate in the microwave. We skipped the hot chocolate and instead cuddled under a blanket and read books until Mike got home. Luckily the power came back on a short while later and all was well.

    On Sunday, Mike discovered that the Packers game was not going to be broadcast to Minnesota stations because the Vikings were playing at the same time, so he headed off to Whistle Binkies to watch the game. Benjamin and I did some Halloween costume shopping. After the game(s) were over, we met up with my friend Lora and her two girls for some laser tag and bouncing at House of Bounce. The four girls all played laser tag for two games and had an absolute blast. Benjamin and Mike did some bouncing on all of the slides and bouncy houses and when all was said and done, we were all pooped! It was a great afternoon.

    I think we are all ready with our Halloween costumes. I have one more piece to find for my costume and then I am done! Benjamin and I have a Halloween event tonight at the Plummer House Mansion and then all three of us are going to an event at IBM on Thursday. We'll be up in the cities for the weekend for a half marathon, HallZOOween, a Halloween party and the Packers vs. Vikings game. We can't wait!


    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    I just HAD to post this!
    I read A LOT of blogs on various things that interest me, one of which is EuroCheapo because well, I love Europe and FamilieSchmitt is a little "cheapo." Usually they post entries about cheap Parisian lodging, free tours in Prague or something equally helpful and interesting. Today though, they posting something that is near and dear to our hearts - Biergartens in Munich!

    You see, Mike and I vacationed in Germany for our honeymoon. We left the day after the wedding having experienced one of the best days of our life mere hours before getting on a long 12 hour flight. Luckily for us the ticket counter attendant was a kind soul and when we told her that we were honeymooners, she upgraded our seats to a sort of above average coach section (more legroom, no babies) of the plane. When we arrived in Germany just around lunchtime, we were so overwhelmed by lack of sleep and excitement that we found ourselves wandering around Munich like zombies. After visiting the Glockenspiel with heavy, tired eyes, we retreated back to our hotel for a nap. Our jet-lagged bodies let us sleep until about 7:00pm when our hungry stomachs awakened us in expectation of good GERMAN food. We set off down the street to find something tasty. Just about a minute down the road we found one of the coolest places we had ever seen: it was a biergarten nestled in a grove of trees. It looked like something out of a tour guidebook about Germany. Near perfection. Germans were lazily seated on picnic tables all over sipping their beers and talking excitedly about who-knows-what. We weren't exactly sure what to do, so we found an empty table and waited for a server to find us. Soon after being seated, a stereotypical large German woman in traditional dress, carrying an armload of biersteins called over to us and simply yelled, "Zwei?!" Mike and I both took German in highschool as our language requirement and had stored enough of that knowledge to translate what the woman was asking us, but not enough knowledge about the place we were visiting to understand what she meant. We interpreted it as "Two menus?" or "Two people?," so we excitedly answered: "Ja!" We were wrong. Minutes later that same woman brought over two Colosseum-sized mugs of beer, one for each of us. So let me just put this into perspective for you:

    • We are operating under extreme wedding-related fatigue and major jet-lag
    • We have not eaten in probably 10 hours
    • I was not a beer drinker at this time
    We were expecting to order food, not consume the equivalent of a small lake of beer. But hell if we were going to tell this stern, German woman staring back at us that she was wrong! We drank all 64 (or whatever) ounces of those beers happily. We paid our waitress and then stumbled back up the street to a pizza place where we SUCKED DOWN a pizza and laughed about our experience.

    We often recall this adventure and one of us will ask the other "Zwei?" when we find ourselves in similar situations. I have never bothered to look up the biergarten though and to this day had no idea what it was called or anything about it except that we fell in love with it. The blog post on EuroCheapo lists it as one of the top 3 best biergartens in Munich. They also say, "the beer, Augustiner, is from Munich’s oldest brewery and has been proclaimed the “state’s best beer” twice over." Who knew?! I'm so glad that I came across that list though so I could once again relive one of our fondest travel memories.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Benjamin sure was a popular guy this past week! Grandma Chris and Grandpa Ed drove down Thursday evening to take Benjamin out to a movie and dinner. They wanted to spend some time with him and treat him to a movie he wanted to see, which they all seemed to enjoy very much! You can read more about their adventure here. Mike and I took the rare opportunity to dine alone that night at our favorite local sushi restaurant. Almost immediately after Mom and Dad called to see if they could take Benjamin out, his Uncle Andy asked if he could take the little man up to his house for a night. How did we get so lucky?! Andy came down late on Thursday after work and stayed overnight so he could be up with Benjamin bright and early to start their time together. They had a blast going to the Science Museum, a park and doing many other fun things. Andy wrote about it in his blog, here.

    While Benjamin was off having a grand old time, Mike and I enjoyed the quiet house, Mike went on a run with some friends, I worked at the Women's Expo and we got the house ready for an influx of women. All three of our sisters-in-law drove down Saturday evening for our traditional dinner outing, this time for Katie's birthday. We went to Sontes, which is one of my favorites here in town. The food was very VERY good and the company was the BEST! I think everyone had a good time and I hope they think about coming back down here sometime soon because it was great!

    Sunday was a day of relaxing for all of us after such a busy weekend. Jen stayed overnight after our girls dinner, so we got to have her with us for breakfast and part of the morning. After she headed home, I mowed the lawn and did some grocery shopping while Mike watched the Packers "play" against the Lions. It was our week to buy the grocery supplies for Benjamin's classroom and we successfully picked up the cheese blocks, chicken in a biscuit crackers and everything else on the list. It felt good to contribute! Speaking of school, Benjamin has school pictures today. Hopefully the photos turn out well so we can get copies to those of you who have been begging me for pictures of him! ;-)

    Project (nearly) complete

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Finished (nearly) project

    The living room project is nearly complete. As you can see in the image above, I've finished the painting and decorating, except for on those 2 ugly "vents" above the fireplace. They are not functional, but pretty much impossible for us to remove. We still have not decided what to do with them. We considered covering them with mirrors or photos/paintings, but I don't really want to draw attention to them. Soo, they remain blue - for now.

    I'll have to follow-up tomorrow with more on our weekend...


    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    As I said in the previous post, I've been inspired by some home design blogs lately and had decided to redecorate our living room. I have purchased a few items here and there, one of which is this beautiful sun burst wall hanging to which I spray painted and added a mirror.

    Wall hanging that I added a mirror to and spray painted silver
    I haven't gotten around yet to photographing the final result of my efforts because I am not 100% done. I should have final pics on Thursday, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, here is an "in progress" photo of the paint job I did:
    During painting
    It turned out so well, but it was quite a project and it took me pretty much all day on Friday to complete it. I had expected to be done much sooner.

    Mike's brother, Andy, came down on Friday in order to help Mike get started on a home improvement project that he's been planning for quite some time: the heater downstairs. Our basement is considerably colder than the rest of our house, so we have been planning to install an electric baseboard heater. It requires a lot of work and the kind of work that we have not been blessed with a talent for. They were able to begin the project and we will hopefully have a fully functioning heater before the really cold weather hits.

    On Saturday both Mike and Andy met up with Joe and Dan in New Ulm for an Oktoberfest celebration. I guess the guys had heard enough about our fun girls outings and felt like they finally needed one of their own. Well, since the guys were off for the night having fun, some of us girls decided to gather at Mike's parents house for a dinner and sleepover with the little boys. The kids had a great time playing with each other and us adults had a chance to play some games after they went to bed. It was a very fun weekend for us all! Benjamin and I picked up Mike on Sunday and we all treated ourselves to lunch and shopping at IKEA.

    We experienced our first real parent-teacher conferences on Monday and I am happy to report that it was great. Benjamin's teacher, Mark, told us that he is a delight to have in the class and that his adjustment to the Montessori way of doing things is coming along very well. We are looking forward to our next conference, sometime in January, when we'll be able to get a better sense of how he is doing as far as the curriculum is concerned.

    My latest obsession

    Tuesday, October 06, 2009

    I've been hiding my nose in my computer for the past week or so, deep into design blogs and decor websites preparing for our soon-to-happen living room redesign. We have been gradually moving away from our original decor (Egyptian) for a few years now. I took down the Nefertiti papyrus painting and the pyramids long ago and finally sold them all in the garage sale we had this summer. Unfortunately we're left with a couch that really fits that color palette better than anything we currently prefer, but we soldier on.

    Our love for Colorado is no secret to anyone and it is our inspiration for this change. The changing Aspen leaves in the fall along with blue skies and rocky mountains will serve as our color inspiration. I've slowly been accumulating pieces to accent these colors and the style I am going for, which is sleek and modern. I was lucky enough to find a number of these items today at a store called Big Lots. I'm not sure where they have these stores in the country, but they're awesome. I remember visiting ours soon after it opened and thought it was pretty useless for us. However, my opinion has changed! It is now my new favorite store.

    Here is a sneak preview of some of the stuff I have for the room:

    The impression of the photo is that I'm going pretty dark with the colors, but I assure you only the small items in the room will be dark. Everything else will be very light and natural. I cannot WAIT. Unfortunately my current problem is the couch and woodwork in the space. The couch is so dark and is mostly maroon, brown and orange-ish-something. I'd like to cover it, but haven't heard great things about ready-made slipcovers and a custom slipcover is probably out of our budget - along with purchasing a brand new couch. So I am on the hunt for a solution to this problem. Also, the woodwork in this room is very a dark, 1980's style. Not much we can do about all of that now, so I will work around it by adding in very light colors within the rest of the room.

    Painting commences this Friday. Photos to follow...

    Twin Cities Marathon 2009

    Monday, October 05, 2009

    Mike successfully completed his TENTH marathon this weekend at the Twin Cities Marathon. We drove up Saturday afternoon and Andy joined the 3 of us at the requisite marathon expo and packet pickup then we spent the evening at Mike's parents' home. Mike, Benjamin and I woke up at 6am the morning of the marathon so that Benjamin and I could drop Mike off at the Metrodome, where the race was starting. Traffic was pretty bad as we approached the dome, so Mike left us and walked the rest of the way to his destination. Benjamin and I headed to a Bruegger's Bagels somewhere in Minneapolis for breakfast and then we met my parents at Lake Calhoun for Mile 6 of the race. It was a beautiful fall morning with the sun rising up over the city and a slight chill to the air. The elite marathoners breezed past us quickly as well as some local Rochester runners and friends. Right on pace, Mike reached us while running with the 3 hour, 30 minute pace group. We caught him again at mile 12, where Dan and Katie met up with us and he was still running with the same group. At mile 22, along famous Summit Avenue, he was a bit behind the pace group, but still looking great. Joe, Jen and the boys met us there and Benjamin and AJ got to run around together for a while. We were not able to see Mike finish the race, but we did catch the announcers calling his name as he was crossing the line. He finished in 3 hours and 36 minutes. All of his brothers, their wives and children, his parents and my parents were all able to see him many times along the route, which he attributes to his strong racing. It was a fun day and we capped it off with a delicious lunch at the Chatterbox Pub in St. Paul. Mike's next big feat: two half marathons back-to-back.