26 September 2009

A whole new estate

Time for a morning in the garden.


Sidewalk Garden

Our yard is so clean and fresh and lovely right now!

New Hydrangeas

Apparently all we needed was 4 guys to work on it for 7 days. These front windows used to have giant weed-bushes and half-dead prickly bushes. Now they have hydrangeas and a magnolia. I am so excited.

Retaining Wall Planting

The gray pointy landscape rocks are gone. This is jack pine bark mulch. Fancy! I hid in the house while they shoveled all the rock up. It was 90 degrees and I was feeling pampered and guilty.

New Fondulac Wall

And here's the most exciting part! New rock walls. The whole point of the project. The new mulch was just gravy, so to speak. Gravy on a big pile of stone mashed potatoes. With globe arborvitae peas. Also in that picture, you can see my new bird bath. Which cost about 0.1% of the project but is possibly my favorite part. I had been talking about a new bird bath for years (seriously! Aren't you glad you don't live with me?) and I find one and bring it home and Brent's like, "Why would you want to attract BIRDS? Ew." So apparently he doesn't like birds? So apparently he doesn't listen to me talk? Well. I guess neither one of those is that unexpected.

Fondulac Steps

Here is the other side, with the steps coming down from the deck. I can't tell you how pumped we are to be able to Exit The Deck. Very Exciting! And that big empty bed there? That's going to be my fairy garden! (I've told Brent all about it for years. He can fill you in.)

Fondulac Steps

Above you can see the Pink Flamingo Willow, a very exciting new tree. Here's a close-up.

Pink Flamingo Willow

We look forward to many happy times in our 'new' yard!

13 September 2009

Such a Beautiful Trip

This weekend we went down to Whitewater State Park to spend a night in a camper cabin.

Little Cabin in the Woods

When I made the reservation, September 12 sounded like a nice, crisp fall weekend. Not exactly the case this weekend. But the muggy weather made for such a picturesque setting, with the haze and fog and everything shiny and wet, that we couldn't complain.


We went for a hike, and Emily and I quickly fell behind because I couldn't stop taking pictures.


She didn't mind.

Me and the littlest hiker

The trees were just starting to think about what color to be. Dropping a few test leaves.

Whitewater River

There are flowers growing in the middle of the river. It's like a paradise.


This is how Bella goes for a "hike." The Queen of the Nile. Brent says, "I don't mind carrying her!" She is going to wake up one day and be 16 and have to hike using her own legs and it is going to be a rude, rude shock.

Here she is using her legs to run around and terrorize wildflowers. We put these in a cup in the cabin. Very cozy.


See. Cozy, no?

Cozy Cabin

Cabin Glow

The cabin had a handicap accessible fire-ring, which we are sitting at when I took that picture. Basically, handicap accessible means that it is like a 3.5 foot high ring--or, if you will, a burn barrel. Brent was highly amused when I would hunch over it and rub my hands together like a homeless person. "I want a picture of you like that!" (For his desk or what? "Here's my wife, we're camping and she's pretending to be homeless!")

I don't think Bella even saw the fire, since it was way up in the air.

We made BBQ Pineapple Spamburgers for supper (a la State Fair!) with sauteed portobellas and grapes. For dessert we had Archway Frosty Lemon cookies, which are the cookies my mom always brought camping when I was a kid. I was very excited to find them at Cub, since I thought they didn't exist anymore. You know, because I am so freakin' old and there's no way stuff from my childhood still exists.

Then we put the girls to bed and stayed up much too late drinking cool sparkly wine and playing Lost Cities in our cozy little cabin. It was the best.

In the morning, Emily Bea was up first ready for a bottle. So I quietly make a bottle and sit in the dark giving it to her. Bella hops out of bed next and, not seeing me and Emily, proceeds to unlock and open the front door and stroll out of the cabin into the dark morning. Um, holy crap, I'm glad she didn't do that in the middle of the night.

Reading in the cabin

Time for some pancakes, don't you think, Emily?

Breakfast with baby

I used the Batter BlasterTM that I had been interested in trying for a while now. I am always excited to try new pancake-related inventions. This one is like a reddi-whip can full of batter. And, I must say, it is awesome. AWE. SOME. I plan on never camping without it again. (Even though it is SIX BUCKS WHY IS IT SO EXPENSIVE)

Then, time for a little exploring.

A beautiful day for a walk!

We got to see a deer (super close up!), three turtles, a bird-banding demonstration, and this awesome mushroom, for which I made the whole family walk back for my camera. I think it was worth it.


It reminds me of me and Emily riding in her sling.

For the afternoon, we broke camp and headed over to Rochester to visit my parents, where Bella fell asleep for five hours. Emily fell asleep on my mom, who complained but loved every minute of it: "I'm trapped under this huge sleeping baby! Bring me a Coke with ice and a straw and the newspaper and some peanuts and a footstool!"

You'd like to be trapped by her too. Just look at how much she would love to trap you.

A bath in Nana's sink

It was a great weekend, full of all the memory-making, laughs, and photo taking I so adore. This is what life should be like, don't you think?

07 September 2009

State Fair: Day 11

Best Fair EVER?

Minnesota State Fair 2009

Attendance was an all-time record this year, so I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Was it the perfect weather?

Super Bouncer

The bargain-conscious economy?*

Me and Emily Listening to a Band

The whole world getting caught up in the romantic, storybook fantasy that is the Fair?

Listening to Some Blues

I think it is the latter. The Fair is an ephemeral Eden. A land of all-you-can-drink milk and honey fudge nut ice cream.

On display are the best we humans can offer: art--from fine to crafty, our most loved and cared for animals, the proud fruits of our gardens, live music of all varieties, delicious food and drink. And the excitement to share it all with each other.

I think the Fair can be largely an attitude. A willingness to soak up all that is good in the world.

This year the Fair has given me such a chance to be thankful. For health, for a beautiful family, and for all the Fairgoers who love the Fair as I do.

Until 2010, I bid you a fond, fond Fair-well, Fair.**

*I don't mean bargain-conscious as in, "I'm losing my house, let's go to the Fair!" but more like "Florida's expensive, let's go to the Fair!" Here is my 2009 breakdown, since, strangely, a bunch of people have asked me how much the Fair costs me (I can't decide if this is RUDE!): Tickets: $94. Food: (coincidentally) $94. Rides: $52. Entertainment: $22. Grand total for 9 days of Fair bliss: $262.
**until tonight, when I get to go to the Fair to pick up my bunting! FAIR! I'M BACK! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!

03 September 2009

State Fair: Day 9

Breakfast at the Fair

Well, sure I'll eat your delicious sausage from the Hamline Dining Hall!

You know how some days just start out great? This one was like that. We even made a list. It has all the things on it Bella could think that she would want to do today.

Plotting our day at the Fair

Bella and I were so excited to be at the Fair! I mean, really, we were. By day 9, I was wondering if the thrill would have worn off for her. You know, fifth trip and all? But I had no need to worry. It's all about packaging. And today was "Girl's Day" at the Fair! Just us girls. Fairin' it up.

We did girl stuff. Like went shopping (15 marbles for $1!). And got our hair done.

A New Fair-Do

We watched a girl magician, whom Bella and Emily were both very entertained by. I was too, actually. She was charming. I kind of want to hang out with her.

We met up with a girl friend and rode the Ferris wheel. (The super tiny mini pretend Ferris wheel. The one where the attendant can stand up and reach the top if your angelic, well-behaved child is wildly swinging their chair and needs to be stopped.)

Mini-Ferris Wheel

We got a little cup of Fresh Fries just for us and somehow (I really have no idea!) Emily ended up with ketchup all over her shirt. How did you do that, Emmers? Weird!

We watched the parade, which finally--FINE. ALL. EE.--contained the Big Pickle for us to circle on the Scavenger Hunt. Thank goodness that trauma is over. Bella has suggested that he is too hard to find and should be replaced with an airplane. Amen to that, sista.

And now. I bring you a very special moment.


On the Sky Ride

She loved it. But of course she would. Because she is perfect in every way.

First Sky Ride

Then Bella declared herself too tired to make it to the van (um, who's pushing who in the stroller?) without some fortification of the iced cream variety. Well I can't argue with that. Honey ice cream, coming right up!


And then, after playing "storytime" for a little bit out in a shady garden by the Hort building (where all of the stories started more or less like: "Once upon a time, a girl named Bella woke up, and her daddy said 'It's time to go to the Fair!'"), and also despite being fueled by honey chocolate nut ice cream, Bella went out cold in the stroller. Emily too. A nice peaceful stroll back through the Fair to the parking lot.

Tuckered out

I was a bit concerned about bathroom stops with a double-wide and two kids. But I believe in Fairgoer goodwill, so several times just asked matronly-looking women in the bathroom to hold Emily. One of them said to me, "Well of course! You have your hands full. And what beautiful hair you have!" Me: "Oh, why thank you so much!" Her: "I was talking to your daughter." Oh. The one with the orange sparkly hair. Of course. I totally knew that.

Oh! I almost forgot the BEST PART. We got a Fairborne bobble-head doll on sale at the Fair giftshop! OMG! OMFG! It is so great. So so great. Bella is sleeping with it right now. She also informed me while I was making dinner that she would never be lonely again, because she has Fairborne the Bobble-Head Doll.

I'll just let that last sentence soak in for a sec.

I think we're taking tomorrow off from the Fair, so if you're there, give it some love for us!

State Fair: Day 7

Ahhh... solo night at the Fair. Possibly my favorite night of the year. I love family time at the Fair, heaven knows. Why else do you have a family except to take them to the Fair? But Me Time at the Fair? This is my happy place.

Sky Ride

First, a root beer to sip as I saunter. Then some shopping. Grandstand, Coliseum, Heritage Square. I get a Go Girl pee funnel, some Nellie's laundry soap, and a kit to sew a strawberry needle holder. All very exciting.



I stop by to hear Storyhill in Heritage Square. I love a sunset show at Heritage Square. The concert was a bit sleepy, I have to say. And when Chris goes, "This is the first time I've been to the Minnesota State Fair!" there was shocked silence throughout the crowd. [cough] FREE BIRD!

I excused myself to go get a pickle hat.

(which are in the food building at the popular deep-fried pickle booth)

And then I'm taking pictures of cows after watching the rodeo and I get a powerful hunger. I'm so hungry! Ohmygosh! I've waited too long! EVERYTHING SOUNDS GOOD! I proceed directly to the SPAM booth for a big, juicy, pineappley, BBQ-slathered SPAMburger.

Ahhhh. That's better. SPAM fixes everything.

On to the 4-H building (always an experience)

4-H Show

and (I've been saving this one for solo night) Fine Arts. Two of my favorites:

Screen-printed Dress in Fine Arts

Needlefelting in Fine Arts

I ran into Alison and Jed and his parents in the Fine Arts building. I just love Fairendipity. They shared their walleye cakes with me. How good are those things?

We lingered around the Fair. Then I had a craving for some Lefse, which was delicious with some hot chocolate on a chilly evening. We played skee ball. We watched the fireworks. We cruised the Midway.


What a beautiful Fair night.

01 September 2009

State Fair: Day 6

Today we met Nana and Grandpa at the Fair!

Nana and Grandpa Day at the Fair!

We started off the morning with a coffee and a churro and a free Star Tribune. Mom had a peach scone. Mmmm. Breakfast at the Fair.

Then we zipped around to see some Fair highlights. First, butter heads! We lucked out and got to see some live carving action! We watched it while we ate a fresh blackberry malt (heavenly, by the way). And here's a shocker: Emily "Butterball Baby" likes ice cream.

Butterhead Carving

Gobble Gobble!

Couple of Turkeys

There was turkey confusion because Mom couldn't figure out how to hold up Bella and get her own head into the hole. So a nice stranger lady is actually holding Bella up. Thanks nice stranger lady! Doesn't the Fair just bring out the best in people? I think so.

We ran into my sister-in-law and the cousins visiting the Big Pumpkin. They had Santa hats. We want Santa hats! Our hat collection is pretty impressive this year:
  • John Deere tractor hat
  • Pig ears
  • Coffee cup
  • Ear of corn
  • Pronto pup
  • Santa hat
  • Chicken
Are we missing any good ones? As you may have seen by my tweet, where I proudly name-drop that I've been emailing the Big Pickle, the pickle hats will be only available Thursday and Friday.

Here's mom in a chicken hat.

Mom Chicken

And the cousins.

Chicken Hats

Taking this picture was like trying to get real chickens to all three look at you. Gah.

And look, kiddie crop art!

Making Crop Art

This was super fun. I had trouble not elbowing Bella out the way so that I could take over. I do love an art project. Especially one with glue! And sprinkling! MAMA LOVES THE SPRINKLES.

We rode the Space Tower (with cousin Nick, Space Tower Tour Guide, narrating the whole time. "From Minneapolis (Vanna White arms).... to St. Paul.... you see it all on the Space Tower."), pilgrimaged to see The Bunting, watched the parade, and rode the Giant Slide. And Grandpa's hat flew off and the slide attendant had to risk life and limb to run up the slide to get it! Most exciting Giant Slide ride ever.

Giant Sliders

It was super un-crowded (although my parents couldn't get over all the people. Hicks.) so we actually ventured into the Miracle of Claustrophobic Birth Barn. We got to see chickens coming out of eggs! And boy did they look tired. Can't. Hold. Up. Head. Poor little things.

We stayed until sunset, because really, none of us wanted the day to end. Bella was still singing the State Fairol as we strollered back to the car. That's my girl.