Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jen's Baby Shower

I flew to Nebraska this past weekend to host a baby shower for my dear cousin, Jen.  I spent an extraordinary amount of time thinking and planning for this shower because I wanted everything to be perfect for her. The baby will be l-o-v-e-d by everyone in my family. We are all so excited to finally meet this little one, and no one deserved to reveal in the joy more than mama- and papa-to be.

Luckily I had lots of help to pull everything together. My mom and I partnered together to plan/make/purchase all the details and my sister Ashley and cousin Jes helped us host on the big day. Dividing up the "to-do" list was easy; my mom's definitely the culinarian of the two of us so she took care of all the food and I did decorations, invitations and games.

Jen's an elementary school teacher and loves children's books too so my mom and I thought an ABC theme would be a perfect fit.

For invitations, I purchased a cute design from Minted.com, an online stationary site I found through another blog site. I loved how these turned out; looked super professional. Hard to tell from the photo, but the ABC blocks in the invitation tied nicely with our theme as well

Incorporating the onsies and bibs in the invitation, I purchased gender-neutral yellow and green baby gear and hung them along a clothesline as decoration. I added a chalkboard hung next to the clothesline to tie in the ABC school theme.


A quick, inexpensive add were ABC magnets for the fridge. I noticed different words spelled throughout the party which I thought was really cute. People must have really liked those! I also added the shower invite to tie it all together.

Also an extension of the ABC theme, I purchased flash cards and strung them up as a banner on the window above the table scape. I thought this was a cute, inexpensive way to incorporate letters as decorations.

pictured: the hostesses with the mostesses, my mom and I

My mom did an amazing job with the food. She used glass plates and cups, a silver tea set and prepared pinwheels, fruit and dip and cake to munch on. I also added menu cards to incorporate the ABC theme.

I'd never heard of diaper cakes until I moved to Minnesota and decided to make one for Jen's shower. The diaper cake was the perfect centerpiece and received many oohs and aahs from the shower guests. Jen will appreciate all the diapers once Baby C arrives too!

As for games, I moved away from the standard baby games like "guess the baby food" and opted for games with less mess including the tray game, measure mama's tummy and an ABC book I saw on another blog earlier this summer. Stealing the show of course were all the lovely baby gifts Jen received, with due purpose! 

Finally, for party favors we setup a candy bar for guests to fill take-home bags. This was a big hit as well and several of the gals took home bags for their husbands too. Don't want the men to feel left out after all!

In all, we had around 18 guests and one happy mama-to-be. I'm honored to have had the chance to celebrate Jen and her bundle-of-joy-to-be.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Date Night @ Pizza Farm

Andi treated me to Date Night on Tuesday. His gift for our first wedding anniversary - 12 date nights fully planned by him. The perfect gift if you ask me. You all know how much I looove quality time with my husband.

I raced home after work and we hopped into the car. Andi packed a cooler bag with chips, cookies and wine so I wouldn't be too hungry on our drive to the secret date night destination. As we crossed into Wisconsin, I became curious. All I saw for miles were corn fields, the open road and blue sky.

Around 6pm, we rolled up onto a country road filled with cars. Andi's suprise was dinner at The Pizza Farm, a sustainable restaurant serving pizzas made from fresh, local ingredients grown right on the land. I use the term restaurant lightly because there's no tables, servers or menus around. Only a brick oven and a farm owner cooking pizzas to order.

The farm was packed and we knew right away we'd stumbled onto something truly amazing. We got in line and learned the wait would be 3 hours for a pizza. Holy cow! I was starving and suggested we come back another time. After all, the Pizza Farm's only open Tuesdays from 4:30pm - 8pm and we still had an hour and a half drive back to the Cities. We walked around the farm instead and checked out the cows and chickens in the pasture. Everywhere we looked we saw kids running around the yard and couples camped out on a picnic blanket drinking wine. The atmosphere was truly amazing; the way dinnertime should really be. Spent outside on a warm summer day, close to the farm where your food originated. Heaven if you ask me. I only wish I could have had a taste :)

As we headed back home, we stopped at a local winery along the way. We cruised in, sampled some wine and talked with the owner who told us all about his apple farm. Country life is definitely a slower one. People are friendlier; life seemed more genuine. I joked with Andi - could we do it? Trade in Target or crowing roosters?

As we drove home, Andi was a little twitchy date night didn't turn out just like he planned. But I didn't care. Spending time with him is the best present I could've asked for. A perfect night to me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kitchen Updates

When Andi and I moved into our house 3 years ago, the kitchen needed a lot of work. Our house was built in 1912 and still had the original cabinets and counter tops, in addition to having a completely dysfunctional layout. As soon as we unpacked our moving boxes, we set in on updating the kitchen to our taste. If we'd had $50k to drop toward the remodel, I'd have loved to completely restore the kitchen to its original glory. We've all seen those shows on t.v. where an old, out-dated house becomes the policed star it once was.

But we didn't. We had a 1/5 of that so we hit IKEA and tricked our kitchen out the best our budget would allow.

There was a time not long ago where Andi and I lived at IKEA. Many, many nights spent sitting in the showroom examining and planning and preparing. Last weekend, a trip to IKEA with my girlfriends was the first time in a long time I'd allowed myself through the showroom again. I was so excited when I found new inspirations for my kitchen and bedroom! In the kitchen, I added a back splash bar with a paper towel rack and hooks to hang utensils, towels, etc. I also added a magnetic knife rack in an effort to remove the exposed knifes from our utensil drawer (safety first around here!).

Next up is my bedroom ...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Catch-up time

A lot to update on as it's been over a week since I've blogged!

First and foremost, work's been really kicking up. There's something like 15 days until the first day of fall semester - ugh - which is largely to blame for my lack of recreational time with the Internet. Frankly, I've been working at work and working at home too. I find myself dreading the next few months because of the whirlwind event it'll be. I can almost guarantee I'll be exhaling a big breath at Christmas when the madness finally settles down and that I'm just not excited about. But enough about work ...

In much happier news, my cousin Tara had her baby on Monday! Little Henry Lyons II. Sounds like mama and baby are doing well. Let this begin the baby season! No joke when I say I have a family member or girlfriend having a baby every month from now to February. Very much enjoying all the baby shopping I've had to do lately. :)

My childhood best friend Ashley and her husband Neal came to visit us last weekend. We went to a Twins game, tubing down the Apple River and laughed until my cheeks just couldn't take it anymore. More to come on our awesome weekend ....

Got a new car today! Wahoo! Andi and I have been tossing around the idea of buying him a different vehicle lately. He needed something better suited for his line of work. Yes, he's in advertising, but many of his clients are outdoor recreational brands and having a vehicle which allows him to tow boats and ATVs is needed. No complaining from me on this one as this means I'd be trading in my VW Jetta and driving his current car going forward. May I take a minute to remind you of the evil hoax my Jetta possessed? Car accident, car break-in, exploding tire, sticky back door, you name it. I'm happy to report we've successfully traded in that crazy car, Andi has a new SUV able to pull anything he'd ever want and I am the owner of a new-to-me Lexus. Couldn't be more excited.

Do you guys Groupon? I'm in love with those deal-of-the-day websites which offer fabulous coupons on everything from spa packages to grocery store gift cards. There's a few of them in the Twin Cities - other ones I've belong to are Living Social and Crowd Cut. Most times, they aren't offering any coupons I'm interested in, but sometimes they do and it's fun to get something I'd have either purchased anyway or thought about purchasing in the future for 1/2 the price. A few weeks ago, Andi bought one for an eco-friendly cleaning service. $80 for 4 - 1/2 day sessions. Can you believe that? The first session with Eco-maids offered a "deep clean" so I promptly suggested they clean my windows, blinds, baseboards and radiators - all things I'm confident haven't seen the sights of a dust rag in well, shall we say never. I came home to a crisp, clean house (even my microwave was sparking!) and now I'm counting the days 'til they'll be back again in October, November and December. What a luxury!

Have you noticed I'm into exclamation points lately? I am! I don't know what's wrong with me but I can't stop them from jumping onto the screen. Apology extended.

And finally, we played a board game this weekend that will absolutely change your life. For reals. It's called Quelf and I strongly suggest you all visit Amazon and purchase it right now - go ahead, I'll wait - because it's the awesome of a board game. I swear my side still hurts from laughing so hard on FRIDAY. It's Wednesday, people! That FUN. I best describe it as a culmination of every drinking and board game you've ever played. Just trust me, go play it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Parents Visit Minnesota

While I do love living in Minnesota, the hardest part is being apart from my family. Every visit is bittersweet; I count the seconds until we see each other and my heart hurts the second we separate.

The experiences and the memories are what gets me through. And this week, we had plenty of those.

My parents came to visit on Wednesday (and left this morning - hence, my heavy heart). We had a wonderful four days together, spent mostly at our wonderful cabin.

On Wednesday, my parents arrived in from Nebraska around 5pm. We hung around my house for a while to wait out traffic, then drove up to Crosslake. My parents were exhausted having spent 7 hours in the car on top of the 2 1/2 up to the cabin, but we were all anxious to start our vacation. Plus, Andi was already up at the cabin having spent the week nearby producing a photo shoot. When we arrived, Andi just got back from all-you-care-to-eat crab leg dinner and was nearly blue from crab intoxication. I don't know why he does that to himself over and over and over. I'm starting to consider admitting him to Crab Over-Eaters Anonymous. As Andi moaned and groaned, my parents and I enjoyed cocktails and caught up on all things small town Nebraska drama.

Thursday morning, we woke up and drove in to show my parents the sights in town then hit the grocery store to pick up a few ingredients I may have forgotten to pack. In my defense, I had a lot going on last week as we celebrated our anniversary, went to Vancouver and busted my tail preparing for fall start-up at work. Afterwards, we headed straight for the lake. We were blessed with the greatest weather up there - 75, no humidity and sunny every day. We spent the rest of the day sunning on the pontoon and drinking cocktails - it was heavenly.

Sweetest thing! Andi was determined to catch enough fresh fish for dinner because my mom said how much she liked it. At one point he was running two fishing poles and driving the pontoon while my parents and I watched him.
Friday was another beautiful day and we didn't do a thing but hang out on the lake. I've never seen my parents so relaxed. I think they really had a great time. And if there's anything you want to do as a [adult] child, it's make your parents life easier.

Andi took Chloe swimming ...
You can see how much she enjoyed that experience

Love this one of Chloe -
What a little rag-a-muffin!

There was no shortage of eating during my parent's visit. We ate chicken kebabs, surf and turf, homemade cheesecake, deli sandwiches, summer salads and so much more. I put on my pants this morning and they barely buttoned - if that doesn't say good vacation, I don't know what does. (This week's restrictive diet, however, will not be as much fun).

After dinner, we planned lawn games and you guessed it, more relaxing. What a fun way to spend time with my parents!

We left Crosslake yesterday and came back to the Cities. I think we all threw mini-tantrums because we had to leave the lake, but I didn't want my parents to have a 10 hour drive to Nebraska. We stopped in Garrison, Minnesota on the drive home to get their picture near the world-famous walleye statue. I think this was one of my dad's favorite things we did!

Last night we all went down to Stillwater. It was blazing hot outside so we walked around for a hour, ducked into a bar to have a drink and headed home. My parents had never been to Wisconsin before so we drove over the bridge and crossed one more state off the list to visit. I taught them my famous "Welcome to Nebraska" song which Andi and I sing every time we cross into the state on our drive home. Inserting Wisconsin just didn't have the same ring to it, but I think my parents got a kick out of it!

Before they left this morning, we met Andi's parents for breakfast. While I'm lucky to have such great parents-in-laws as Janie and Jim, it sure felt great to have my own in town. Enjoyed my week with them!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Currently in ....

Well, July has come and gone. Join me in saying "uh, where and the heck did July go?" This summer's just flying by ...

July was so good to me. I celebrated Fourth of July with some of my bestest friends; tested my adventure bug and tried canoeing for the first time and celebrated 365 days of bliss with my husband.

Also in July ....

Current Books: I'm still reading Animal Vegetable Miracle .... it's a cabin read for me so I pick it up a few days here and there. I also started reading The Secret Life of Bees on our vacation to British Columbia and am also picking back up my fertility awareness book and daily bible.

Current Play list: Country - it reminds me of summertime. And Green River Ordinance.

Current Guilty Pleasure: I think cuss words, sadly. I seem to have a potty mouth lately.

Current Color: Still the same - black.

Current Drink: I've been trying to drink more water lately and carrying around a water bottle has helped. There's a cool new water fountain near my office that shows how many bottles of water have been diverted from the waste stream by using refillable water bottles. It's awesome. Makes me feel good inside.

Current Food: Salsa Lisa's salsa. I don't even like salsa really, but I tried this local, all-natural salsa made in St. Paul and it's fabulous! You can taste the freshness of the ingredients. So good.

Current Favorite Shows: Oooh, Mad Men's back on and it's sooo good. We also started watching Nurse Jackie and Sons of Anarchy. New into the shows but they're indulgent so far.

Current Wish list: To freeze frame this moment. Life is all good and I'm so happy. Love my life!

Current Needs: I need focus in my job. Thirty days until the crazy begins ... and I'm not prepared. Also, I need to rejuvenate my relationship with God. Refocus and devote some time to Him.

Current Triumphs: We made it! Our one year anniversary has come and gone. Lately because we've celebrated and remembered our wedding day, I'm flooded with the feelings of how I felt that day just one year ago. I'm amazed at how much love I have for my husband. More each and every day, which sounds so clique but it's true. He is everything to me.

Current Bane Of My Existence: This humid heat. No fun for a girl w/o air conditioning.

Current Celebrity Crush: Back to John Hamm from Mad Men. Oooh Eeee!

Current Indulgence: My new Mac Book. I love how easy it makes all things Internet. And I'm learning new tricks everyday that make it better and better.

Current Blessing: My family and friends. I'm a lucky duck.

Current Outfit: Yoga pants and a yellow long-sleeve t-shirt. 

Current Excitement: My parents are coming to visit this week!!! I'm so excited. We're spending some time at the cabin relaxing. Nothing sounds better than that ...

Current Mood: Tired from the red-eye flight from Vancouver. Happy to be home. Excited for my parents' visit.

Current Link: Eh, I don't really have one this month. I'm pathetic ....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Vancouver: Day 4

On Sunday morning, Andi and I woke up early and checked out of Seastone and hopped onto the B.C Ferry back to Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver.  We were sad to say good-bye to the Sunshine Coast, but both vowed we'd come back here someday. What a relaxing place to reconnect with each other!

Our second ferry ride of the weekend was as painless as the first. We arrived about 30 minutes prior to departure, cruised on to the boat and were on our way. We started watching Nurse Jackie on this trip so we fired up a few episodes and were docking in Vancouver before we knew it. One thing I noticed was "missing" from the ferry experience was any security check-point. Not that there needs to be one really, but I found it strange and very trusting of Canadians to allow virtually anyone to drive their vehicle (or individually walk onto) the ferry without any security screening. Are we that sensitive to violence in the U.S. that we need security checks to make us feel safe? Or are other parts of the country that much more safe than ours? Regardless, nothing happened during our ferry experience that made me think there should be; I just found it a little eerie no one else did.

Upon docking in Vancouver, we drove off the ferry and headed North to Whistler. This, as I'm sure everyone knows, was the site of the February 2010 Winter Olympics and home to a huge ski resort and mountain biking course. The drive up the mountains was very picturesque - similar to what you'd see in Colorado but with the ocean down below. The drive took about 2 hours, but we stopped at Shannon Falls along the way and hiked up to this waterfall. How beautiful is this?!

Because my husband can never do things the normal way ...
This is me, shooting out from the brush instead of taking the path like the other people

We continued North toward Whistler. Andi saw a sign for a fish hatchery and turned in. I think he had some sort of fond childhood memory of visiting one. So we cruised in, but were disappointed to find only a few fish and nothing to really look at. So we looked around, and started taking photos because yeah, that's what we do.

We arrived in Whistler shortly after and it was booming! Tons of tourist groups, families and mountain bikers everywhere we turned. Now normally, Andi and I aren't much for crowds on vacations; usually avoiding all tourist traps and organized activity. At first, we were overwhelmed by all the crowds of people. There was a farmer's market taking place in Upper Whistler and was wall-to-wall people complete with amusement rides and all. We took a chance and spent $50 a piece on an unlimited lift ticket that took us all over the park. We jumped on the first lift to get away from the crowd and saw this:

...and more of this:

Not looking good. The farther we traveled up the mountain, the more dense the clouds became. Then finally: sunshine and warmth. It was wonderful. We hopped off at the top of Blackcomb Mountain and walked around the lodge. The views were amazing; we were on top of the clouds!

Next we took the Peak to Peak gondola over to Whistler Mountain. These new system was added before the Olympics to connect the two parks together. Oh my gosh! It was the coolest thing! Definitely the favorite thing we did all day. The gondola was all enclosed and is the longest spanning and highest rising in the world. The views were spectacular.

Once we arrived on the top of Whistler Mountain, we ate lunch and then rode the lift down to Whistler Village. It was crazy busy down there as well, with lots of restaurants and shops. It was the best of both worlds - the tops of the mountains were quiet and peaceful and the villages were bustling with excitement. I was surprised at how clean and quaint the entire area was. Definitely worth the stop.

Whistler Olympic Statue

As we cruised out of town, I begged Andi to stop at the Olympic Village Centre. I don't know what I expected exactly, but thought we'd see gigantic lodges and ski contraptions. But actually, it was small and disappointing. Being the marketers Andi and I are, all we could talk about is how much of a "miss"the park was. Since the space was already built, they could have showcased video or giant informational signage about the athletes who performed there or the records they set. Instead, all that's left are abandoned ski jumps.

We left Whistler and drove back to Vancouver. We were booked on the red eye flight, so we had a few hours to kill before the airport. We decided to return to the Sea Wall in downtown by the harbor and visit Granville Island. We spent the last few hours of our vacation strolling along the water, talking and dining at a outside restaurant patio.

What an awesome way to celebrate our first year of marriage! Loved Vancouver and can't wait to return someday as we celebrate another moment in our life together.