Sunday, September 27, 2009

Off to the Cities!

After a very long, harrowing week Travis and I were able to get away to Minneapolis/St. Paul this weekend. It was a much needed break from our daily lives! Normally we wouldn't do this type of thing, just go off to a new city, stay overnight and explore but we had good reason. Sue and Russel were in town! They're good friends of ours from St. Charles who came up for the Midwest Book Sellers Convention. Well, Sue did. Russ just came for company and to see the sites. It was so great to see them!

We decided to leave Saturday to meet them for dinner Sat night. The day started off like any normal day, although I knew it would be a bit busier. I had to work until 12, then real estate class until 3, then we would leave from school for St. Paul. "The best laid plans of mice and men...."

Travis was running late and had to rush out to meet someone in Hibbing, and when I was about ready to leave myself I couldn't find my wedding rings. Of course I run around like a lunatic trying to find them, tearing the house apart, in tears until I finally had to give up and leave for work. After calling Travis a million times, he finally texts me "don't worry, your rings are safe." Apparently he had put them in the little cup I use for q-tips in the bathroom sometime during the night and failed to tell me. Crisis averted!

I had to go straight from work to my class, which of course means that something would go wrong at work and I would be made late. Of course. Which is exactly what happened, on top of the fact that I was 4 hours late for class anyway due to having to go to work. Then we get out early. Great right? Nope! I forgot that we needed cat food, so I had to rush to buy that, then rush home. And the church was doing a work day at our house, so there are a ton of people here when I arrive. All of which I have to say hi to, tell them they're doing a great job, give tours of the house to those that haven't seen the inside since we moved in, blah blah blah.

But finally!!!! We got in the car, all ready to go and were off to the cities! We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, St. Paul City Center. It was pretty nice, and I got a great rate too :o) Saturday night, we met with Sue and Russ at the Mall of America for dinner.

Now, never having been to the Mall of America, I knew vaguely what to expect. OH MY GOODNESS! This place is huge! We scored a super close parking spot, and managed our way around reasonably well. My overall impression: amazing. After dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, we rode one of the roller coasters. A roller coaster. In a mall. Roller Coaster. Mall. Yea....


This is a super cool obstacle course that is 4 stories high. You're tethered onto a harness above your head, and the course gets successively harder as you go up. And the nets end after the second story. Scary!

Here's our car right behind the "Mall of America" sign, only about 50 feet away from one of the entrances. Score!

This is a view outside of our hotel room, on the 15th floor. The weather wasn't so great, but it's neat being right in the heart of downtown!

When we were driving back to our hotel Saturday night, we passed a famous St. Paul landmark that both Trav and I recognized right away. I immediately said "we have to go there for breakfast!" Do you recognize it?

It's Mickey's!! The little dining car from the Mighty Ducks movies! It's so tiny, I think it holds all of 20 diners if that. Lucky us, it was within walking distance from our hotel. You go inside and have to stand along the wall until spots along the bar open up, or there are 4 booths in the way back if you're lucky. And the food! Typical diner fare, but good! Travis got an omelet that was as big as his head!

After we ate breakfast, and already having been to the Mall of America, we wondered where we could go from there since it was still pretty early. Did you know that your GPS has a "navigate to" winery option? Where there is wine, I will travel! We ended up finding two that were more or less on our way home. St. Croix Vineyards and Wine Haven Winery. St. Croix also has an apple orchard on the grounds, so the place was a little like a madhouse today.

Looking towards the wine house.

The apple barn, and the throngs of people with their kids. A little nutty, but fun.

Our loot. It was $5 per person for a tasting, but they had deal that if you bought 4 bottles of wine then you got your 5 bucks back. And we got one to open there too, so the lady says "if you get one more then you get an additional 5% off all of the wine." Say no more! Plus I got a posi-pour like they have when they do the tastings, it pours out 1 ounce portions. That was $5 and she forgot to charge us. Whoops!

Which leads me to my next big adventure: I'm starting my own wine business! I'm officially a consultant for The Traveling Vineyard, which hosts at-home wine tastings. They offer hundreds of wines from boutique wineries, most that you can't get in stores. Plus they are very reasonably priced at $12-20 per bottle. I'm really looking forward to bringing some wine sophistication to the Iron Range! Boxed wine and Boone's Farm beware! Ali is on the loose!

I'm also quitting my full time job at the bank to pursue real estate full time. Yes, I may have slightly lost my mind so we'll see how this goes. Hopefully swimmingly well! Fingers crossed?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ring ring, it's the Iron Range!

My witty brother has sent me a nasty email about not updating the blog yesterday so that he could "dial in" on Monday morning to get his fix. So how about a Tuesday pick me up?

Sadly this post will be sans pictures because my dear, sweet husband has taken my camera hostage and is currently out and about with it. They have a weird relationship, those two. He's really just using her in the long run....

Anyway... the weather has been quite nice for awhile now. Mid 70's during the day and high 40's at night. I have a feeling though that winter will come all at once and hit me like a ton of bricks. BAM! 6 feet of snow, whahahaha!!! But for now, I'll take this lovely weather. It's really fall like - most of the trees are turning now and we bought a bag of apples and some pumpkins from the grocery store.

Wonder of wonders! Hubby is home with the camera! Now we have pictures :o)

Here are our pumpkins! Aren't they pretty? I don't know if the white one is a pumpkin too but he's cute and completes the picture.

And here is our little Welcome scarecrow. Cute, eh?

Our lives lately have been busy, to say the least. I decided to take real estate pre-licensure classes that the local community college offers up here. The classes are Tues, Wed, Thurs and Saturdays for 2 weeks, in 3 course sections. So a total of 6 weeks altogether. Except that smarty pants Alison didn't realize it was TWTH and Sat, I thought it was TWTH or Sat. I told my manager that if she let me out a little early to attend the night classes during the week that I could work Saturdays. Long story short: I'm able to finish the first class but I had to withdraw from classes 2 and 3 to take at a later date. Hopefully next spring when I can quit my job. That would be lovely!

Travis has started his job and is getting into the swing of things. He's been doing a lot of training and meeting with people to pick an office location. He's not on my friendly list however, because we found out that he has to be gone for 2 weeks of training over my birthday weekend. He'll be partying it up with about 100 other Country Financial trainees in Bloomington, Indiana while I hang out in Bear River. So I'm thinking of planning a bonfire party with a band in lieu of his absence. Party time!

Our cousins Eric and Kara just recently moved into a new house with their 3 kids, and they had a house warming party over the weekend to celebrate. There was a ton of food, beer, lawn games, you name it! Here are some pics:

Chatting it up outside. That's Deb, baby Elliot, Jenny, Leslie, and Stef.

Chris and Cindy playing bean bags. This is big in Minnesota. BIG. Like we haven't been to a party yet where there were no bean bags. They also play ladder golf but they call it lasso golf. Crazy Minnesotans.

Me holding baby Elliot. He wasn't super happy - come to find out he needed his diaper changed. He was promptly given back to his parents.

Having a good time apparently, no clue what we're talking about here though. I can only imagine.

Wayyyy over there is the firepit. Somehow we came out of the party with no pictures of the house, but it looks great! Eric and Kara have been doing a lot of work to the house, which is over 100 years old. They have a long way to go, but it's a big house and they're in no hurry. They have a roof, no holes in the walls, and everything is operational.

Now I'm off to try my hand at cooking chinese from recipes - no one delivers out here! Hope you have a great week!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Just one of those weeks...

where nothing seems to be going right. I don't want to be a complainer so I'll just give you the highlights. After a great Labor Day weekend, I went back to work feeling refreshed and thankful for three days off. Who doesn't love that? Work was same old same old, but a bit more hectic since we had Monday off. The day after a holiday always seems busy and crazy! So I go home to relax, have a nice dinner and put my feet up after a long day. Boy was I in for a shock! I came home to green water. GREEN water. In the toilet, coming out of the bathroom sink, the kitchen sink, all of it. Oy vey!

Travis called his parents, who called their parents, and some other people to come fix our water. But since no one is a professional well-digger or water inspector, the best answer we got was "well just run the water and it should clear up." Ok, so that's what we did. All night long. Imagine my surprise when we woke up and had no water in our tank. Duh! No one really explained the mechanics of a well to me, and this city girl has definitely never had to deal with living on a well before! We drained our holding tank, so it had to refill. Then we had to drain the hot water heater, because some of the nasty water got in there too. Long story short, I had to take a shower elsewhere, was late to work, and came home to slightly yellowish water. Better than green, but definitely not clear! We're still working on the water issue as we speak.

Then Wednesday I was very much looking forward to getting off a little early at 4:30 instead of 6, so I could come home and relax after our water fiasco. Until I remembered our teller meeting was scheduled that night from 6 to 7. Whoops! Which led me to the dilemma of what to do for an hour and 1/2 until the meeting started. What does a girl do in small town Minnesota when she had time to kill? Go to the local feed and tack store!

Which leads me to the only highlight of my week. I have horses! Two to be exact. Travis's Dad has had these horses for awhile now, but no one does anything with them or knows how anyway. So he said "well their yours then, I'll pay for them but you can do what you like with them". Music to my ears! So now I have a 12 year old bay Quarter horse mare named Crystal, and a black and white Paint mare that we named Libby. And we don't know how old she is.

I wasn't paying attention when Travis took this shot, but here they are!

One of me riding Crystal. Please don't critique the riding, or the crazy English/Western clashing. Just say "oooo, pretty pony!"

And here I am riding Libby. Libby is just walking right now because she has a weird crack in her hoof. The farrier said she'll be fine, she'll just have a funny looking foot for the rest of her life.

Of course I picked the best pictures of us to post, but let me tell you: the first day was quite a battle! Libby didn't like that I took Crystal away from her to ride, so she broke loose and ran around like a mad woman, mostly in the oat field (right behind us in the pic of me riding her). Then once we caught her, Crystal didn't want to be taken away from her and be ridden so she was horrible for 75% of our ride. Libby wasn't much better, but I didn't do nearly as much with her so the ride was short. Today Crystal was much better, but still had a little sass up her sleeve. I do have to admit though, after two years of not riding I am really sore today!

So that is the big news from Bear River! For a place that doesn't exist, we sure do have our share of excitement!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall!

Labor day weekend is one of my favorite long weekends. I get an extra day off from work, I know fall is just around the corner, and there is usually a couple of good BBQ's to go to. We seem to be having a good stretch of nice weather, but who knows how long that will last! Everyone says that this uncharacteristically cool summer weather we've been having is not the norm, and usually they have warmer weather. Well, since I moved to the North Pole, I just don't believe what "everyone" tells me.

Even the trees have decided that it's fall, and time to turn their leaves. I wish I could have gotten some shots of the gorgeous trees on my way to work. There are several that are bright red, like red that I've never even seen before! I did make Travis stop along Highway 5 on our way to town to get a couple of shots, just so you will believe me. We were going to the wine store and then the grocery store, but that's a whole different story. So here are the trees:

This one is actually just down the road from our house.

And this little group is along Highway 5

So before I have any naysayers point out all the green let me clarify: no, not all of the trees are turning yet, but we do have some here and there. Their favorite season is Fall too, and if I were a tree then these guys would be my friends :o)

Travis also caught this cool shot on his way down to Duluth on Wednesday. We've been having a lot of foggy mornings, and he caught this one right as the sun was coming up. It almost looks like the woods are on fire. I'll have to discuss with him later about safety and taking pictures while driving.

Now since we live out in the middle of nowhere, we've taken a new appreciation to good food. By no means are either Travis or I turning into gourmet chefs (ha! we know that I am definitely not!), but we can't just go out to a really good restaurant and grab a quick bite to eat. So we're trying some new things, and jazzing up some old favorites too. Recently Travis took a recipe that I've made a thousand times called "Easy Italian Stew" and livened it up with some fresh zucchini, peas, and green beans from Grandma Fran's garden and some big, beefy tomatoes. Basically the recipe is this:
1 lb ground italian sausage
1 cup elbow noodles
1 cup chicken broth
1 can white beans, drained
(we prefer great northern beans)
some kind of veggie, like peas, carrots, green beans
lots of mozzarella cheese

You brown the ground sausage in a skillet, add the elbow noodles and chicken broth and bring to a boil. I actually really like using sausage here because it's much less greasy than beef, so it makes me feel like it's better for me. Whether or not it is, who knows. Anway, after your skillet is boiling, you add the white beans and veggies to it, simmer for 10 minutes, then serve. It's so easy! We typically top it with the cheese while it's still in the skillet, and then I like to add diced tomatoes to mine, too. But since we had such great fresh veggies, Travis added those instead of a random vegetable and cooked tomatoes in it. I think he only did 1/2 a cup of broth too. I know, I know, the recipe is for a "stew" but I don't really like it really liquidy so we do this a lot. Then he garbled it up with tons of mozz and tada!

Beautiful, Easy Italian "Stew"

This particular day we also used radiatori pasta instead of elbow. Eh, whatever! You can also add some italian dressing when you're browning the sausage to give it a little extra kick!

Those are the adventures we've been on lately, I hope everyone has a great Labor Day!