Sunday, February 28, 2010

Winter fun at Buena Vista

We left early Saturday morning ("early" being relative because 7:45 AM is challenging for at lease 2 members of our family) to head to Buena Vista to meet the Mathern's for a day of skiing. We were right on time despite confusing directions from "Amy" (Steve's GPS) who tried to tell us to drive 6 miles out on frozen Lake Bemidji. We finally had to put her in time-out.
The weather was INCREDIBLE with absolutely no wind, clear sunny skies and temperatures up to 35 degrees.
The snow conditions were great and never got slushy at all. The ski area was smaller, but had 5 lifts and lots of nice runs. The chalet wasn't too crowded even though there were a lot of people there.
Lance had called us the week before and invited us to come up skiing with them and we are so grateful that it worked out. We got a great promotional discount, which allowed our family of 4 to get lift tickets and rentals for just under $100. Hoot-hoot!!
This picture was taken early in the day, because by mid-afternoon, we were hats free and I was actually sweating! On one lift ride I had with Kippy and another unknown skier, I noticed she wasn't even wearing her mittens! I asked where her mittens were and she said they were in her pocket because her hands were too hot. I said, "I would never go without my mittens!" and she glibly replied, "Well, mom, that is because you are cold-blooded." The man next to her busted out laughing.
It is true, I normally spend a lot of time warming up in the chalet. Not this time! I only went into the chalet because my legs were getting so darn tired and I needed to rehydrate.

Brac went to ski school for about an hour and did so great after that. Lance & Denise took turns guiding him down the slopes with his harness and reins.

Speaking of harness and reins... Denise and the three kids all got to go for a sleigh ride before we left.
They had about a 15 minute ride and Kippy was sharing all kinds of information that the owner/driver was sharing with them.
It was nearly dark when we got back to the Hampton Inn, on Lake Bemidji, but the kids quickly got into their swimming suits and headed to the pool.

The hot-tub was actually half inside the building and half outside the building. It was so refreshing to breath in the steamy air outside while experiencing the super hot water.

Brac was on-the-go at the water park. Abby watched the kids, while the adults had a wonderful meal at the attached Green Mill restaurant.
Lake Bemidji Pond Hockey Classic was also being held this weekend. We could see the 6 hockey rinks from the hotel window. As it turned out, the Hockey Classic was the reason for another great surprise... We were eating supper when a huge fireworks display started over the lake. We had a great view out out our booth window while the kids were still at the water park. When we picked the kids up, I asked Kippy if she got to see the fireworks and she said, "Mom, I had a front-row seat 'cause I was in the hot-tub outside!"

And this morning, after a huge breakfast, we spent another 2 hours in the water park and boy were Steve & I grateful to soak our sore muscles.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The faster I go, the more behind I get...

I love that quote because it is such a very true statement for me. I try to keep up with documenting what goes on in our family... you know, preserving the memories for centuries to come. Mostly because I am becoming more and more aware that I am not capable of retaining much in my wee little memory. So this will be a catch-up on the highlights of the past couple of weeks; an eclectic mix of information...
  • We Celebrated Valentine's Day and I was so excited to give Steve a custom black & white canvas art piece.
The wording in the background is the story of how we first met, which I had previously blogged, and also the lyrics from the song we first danced as husband and wife. It is one of the very few sentimental gifts I have ever given Steve.
  • We had a 3-day weekend because of President's Day on February 15th, so we went to Casselton, ND and stayed at the Governor's Inn.
It features an indoor water park and one of the big surprises was that another family and former classmate of Kippy's was also staying at the hotel. Friends make everything more fun! We were also lucky to have Maribeth & Dano doggie sit for Bella while we were there. Miss Bella was extra spoiled and I don't think she missed us a bit!
  • Kippy is officially brace-free as of Friday, February 19th!! She had her braces for about 6 months and will go back to having a retainer to hold everything in place until her canine teeth come in. Her smiles looks so much bigger and brighter without the braces, don't you think? Here we were dressed up because we went to the James Sewell Ballet on Saturday night at the Fergus Falls Center for the Arts. It was truly amazing and the first professional ballet that we had ever attended.
  • My New Favorite Snack: Crunchy Spiced Chickpeas I didn't use canned, but soaked 1 lb bag of chickpeas and doubled the spices. I also made them and substituted the spices with a tbsp of chili powder & a tsp of garlic salt. These are so delicious! My whole family loves them! Although I am nervous about breaking another one of my teeth in half crunching these up! BTW, I broke one of my molars in half last week biting into a wintergreen lifesaver, so that is a very real possibility. I get to go through the process of getting my third crown put on soon. The only positive in that process is that I do LOVE the nitrous oxide gas.
  • Abby participated in Junior High Speech Team. She went to four competitions in February and her last competition was held last night in Fergus Falls (Feb 23). The Interpretive categories consist of Creative Expression, Duo Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, Extemporaneous Reading, Serious Interpretation of Drama, Serious Interpretation of Poetry, Serious Interpretation of Prose, and Storytelling. Abby's category for the season was "Storytelling". In this category, there are usually 2 or 3 rounds, which the participant randomly draws what story they will tell. They have 30 minutes to prepare and then present their story in under 7 minutes. Creating voices and gestures are encouraged.
She came a way with some awards and was happy with her first speech experience. And as her dad likes to say, "Talking is finally paying off for her."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tea for eight

Saturday, February 20th was the annual Tea fundraiser for Someplace Safe, which is a local organization for battered and abused woman. The local Fergus Falls chapter of AAUW, which I have been a member of for 6 years, sponsored a tea table for eight at the event. I volunteered to decorate our table along with fellow AAUW member, Jo Schmidt.
The theme we chose was Easter, which allowed both Jo and I to collaborate and decorate using items we each had. Jo had beautiful sterling silverware, stemware and napkins, along with a vintage paper-mache bunny. I had an Easter wreath given to me by Aunt Syrie as well as my beloved grandma Ruth's china which features a delicate rose pattern. A few bits of ribbon, pastel bunnies and fluffy yellow chicks and the table was complete.

But the finishing touch was provided by Kristi Hastings, our AAUW Fergus Falls chapter president... a little bouquet of roses, which each of the 8 table guests were able to take home.

There were many other marvelous table-scapes to admire. Each with their own unique themes and decor.
This table featured vintage wedding photos along with gorgeous china.
I loved the pop of black, pink and white at this table.
Doesn't it look divine?
This table was themed for Breast Cancer Awareness and looked spectacular!

I loved the addition of t-shirts to dress up the chairs.
This daisy table was so beautifully set.

Each guest's plate had a little flower and lemon lift tea.

The vibrant greens and splashes of color from bright gerbera daisies caught my eye on this table.

Look at these adorable little bird's nests at each setting! Too cute!
The event was so fun, especially since I had such wonderful table mates to visit with.
Including this little beauty.... only 2 months old.
And this precocious, 5 year old... so darling!
As well as entertainment sponsored by the Fergus Falls school of dance and a vintage fashion show.
All added up to a great event for a wonderful cause. Can't wait until next year's Tea!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The odd ball

Ever had that feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Of just not fitting in? Being the odd ball? The third wheel? The odd man out? I am thinking my hibiscus plant, which recently sprouted forth a couple of large, vibrant orange & pink blooms has got to be feeling a bit like that.
The blooms are absolutely gorgeous, but look very out of place in the middle of February, in our snow packed MN environment in the dead of winter.
I wonder what possessed this plant to put forth its luscious, showy flowers, now of all times? Especially given the view it has looking out the patio window of the frozen tundra...

in the backyard and of the patio packed with several feet of snow??

Maybe it can be summed up as HOPE. Hope for Spring, just a few short months away. It sure brightens my day every time I see the beautiful, brilliant color, as odd and out of place as it is. And I thank God for this Blessing... this ray of hope.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cupcake pops and other life lessons

There was a dual purpose to getting together with Lori & Heather on Saturday afternoon at my house.
  1. We were going to make some Cupcake pops, just like Bakerella for Valentine's Day.
  2. Heather and I wanted to try to comfort our dear friend, Lori, who is struggling with heavy sadness as the anniversary of her beloved mom's passing was fast approaching on Valentine's Day. It is so difficult to watch someone you care so much for suffer and the only thing we could think to do was to just be listen... to share... to learn... and as it turns out to laugh.
The first step was to crumble up an entire 9x13 cake, which Heather had thoughtfully colored pink. We dug in with both hands and crumbled away. Lesson: Sometimes it is fun to break the rules.
But things got really, really messy once we added the tub of cream cheese frosting to the cake crumbles. The once pretty pink color turned more fleshy colored and reminded me of raw hamburger! Lori was completely grossed out by the texture and elected not to roll the resulting cake/frosting mixture into balls. Lesson: Three people can look at exactly the same thing and see something totally different.
We were able to shape the cake/frosting into 27 very, very sticky balls. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT mix the entire tub of frosting into the cake crumbles. The dough was way too sticky, I think 3/4 of a tub would have worked better. We popped these into the freezer for 15 minutes before moving on to the next stage for shaping. Lesson: Don't be afraid to NOT follow instructions exactly and improvise.

We thought that shaping the cake balls into mini cupcakes would be easy after chilling the dough, but we were wrong... it was still too sticky. After several attempts and gut wrenching laughter, we finally found a method that worked. First coat the mini-flower cookie cutter with spray Pam, then quickly smoosh the bottom part of the ball into it while shaping a dome over the top. This is a picture of an upside-down cupcake pop. Lesson: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.... laugh, make ridiculous wise-cracks and try some more.
After chilling the shaped cupcakes again, we moved on to adding melted chocolate to the bottom half (the cup). The first attempt to coat was difficult since the chocolate wasn't warmed enough and was very gloppy. We were so distracted with getting the chocolate thin enough to work with that we completely forgot to add the lollipop sticks BEFORE the chocolate hardened. We would later find out that this is an important step. Lesson: Sometimes it is necessary to follow instructions carefully. The trick is knowing which instructions to follow and which ones not to.
Resulting chocolate covered cupcake pop bottoms with lollipop stick added before the chocolate hardened. Once the chocolate was dry, we melted pink almond bark to coat the top of the pop.
Once the top was covered with pink almond bark, multi-colored sprinkles were added and the pièce de résistance was a little red hot on top. I can't tell you how excited we were to finally have one cake pop completed... after literally 2 hours! We were CHEERING!!! Lesson: The more effort you put into something, the sweeter success is!
Our joy was short lived, as we watched the top heavy cake-pop, slide down the lollipop pole, like a firefighter answering a 5 alarm fire. Luckily, we were able to repair the resulting hole with a versatile red-hot (a.k.a man-hole cover), but not before we crumpled into laughter resulting in tears leaking out our eyes and total confusion to Abby who happened to be nearby.

We decided not all of our cupcakes needed to be pops... they looked just as cute as little mini-cupcakes on their own. Keeping in mind that coating a dense cake/frosting ball with almond bark, will result in an object too heavy for a lollipop stick. Lesson: Height doesn't define how cute something is.
The resulting tray of pop-less cupcakes.

We are very proud of our pops because although they are imperfect, they are still wonderfully sweet and cute, just like their creators! :-) These two women mean so much to me. I love them dearly and am glad they allow me to be their sister-friend.

"We cannot change the direction of the wind, but we can adjust our sails." That defines the approach we took that afternoon and the ultimate life lesson.

Steve, Abby & Angelique thought the cupcakes were delicious.

Although, if I ever attempt to make these again, I MUST.HAVE my sister-chicks with me to help me navigate through this laborious process.

Lori's blog on our experience can be found here. Heather's version can be read here.