Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My theme songs...

I think I did it. I think a found a theme song for where I am right now in my life. I can relate to the lyrics. It has a fairly upbeat tempo, so it'll motivate me to be more positive.

Learning How To Bend by Gary Allan

Until something else comes along, this is what I'll be jamming to every day! Now that I have a themesong, I'm going to start working on a soundtrack. ;)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Dog Show

Tonight we watched a show about dogs together as a family. Our dogs decided they wanted to make their own show. It's so funny watching the dogs react to the dogs on our HD TV. At one point Otis ran into the kitchen as he tried to catch the dogs on the other side of the wall.

video

The Apple Orchard

Yesterday, Dave and I took our favorite 4-year-old (Julia) to the apple orchard with Krissy and her friend, Chris. We had the best time ever. Not only is Julia adorable, but she is so well behaved and loves to laugh. And she likes kicking Uncle Dave's seat as he drives. At the orchard we got to do more than just pick apples (and eat some). We got to jump in the hay, go on a tractor ride, wander around a pumpkin patch and see the scarecrow festival. Julia also got to go on a pony ride. These were the best looking apples I've seen at an orchard in a long time. I took a lot of pics and here's a few to share.








A new hide-a-bed sofa

This is a special post for all people who like to visit the Minnesota Balows. We got a new hide-a-bed couch, which coincidently I added to my 101 in 1,001 list! Our next door neighbor moved a couple of weeks ago, and she sold us a virtually brand new couch and chair and foot stool. We had a couple of guys test out the hide-a-bed last weekend at the bachelor party. The said it was pretty comfortable. This bed has something special that makes if comfy -- it's part regular mattress, part air mattress. And it's beautiful...makes our loft look so much better...especially with the new blinds and desk...it's a whole new room now. This couch (and me) are looking forward to guests staying at our house!

Cooper says, "Good morning!"



Thursday, September 25, 2008

Paul...my homeless friend...

I was just thinking about people to pray for tonight. I thought about Paul. I met him in Peavey Plaza downtown Minneapolis on Saturday. I was going to a bachelorette party, but I got there early, so i was just walking down Nicollet Mall and sat on a bench to people watch. Paul came and sat next to me.

P: Can I show you my card trick?
M: I don't have any money to give you.
P: I didn't ask for money.
M: Ok. Show me your card trick.
[shows me the trick]

Then I learned some details about his life. He lives under the 3rd street bridge. He has a 21-year-old daughter who lives in Robbinsdale. He's an alcoholic. He smokes. He's been homeless since getting out of the penitentiary.

Trying to save the world...

Dave's calling me for bed, but I'm just not ready. My head is too full of heavy thoughts. I know I'd just lay there thinking about the ways I could save the world. Not sure if these thoughts are worth blogging about....well, they're definitely worth it....but sometimes it's hard to put such private thoughts out there for the whole world to read. (Yeah, I know not the whole world reads The Balow Bunch, but in effect, they could).

I'd like to write Senator McCain a letter. I'd tell him that I'm not stupid. I see his political ploys for trying to get the VP debate cancelled. He seems to be scared of having Palin and Biden debate. Is he trying to protect Palin? How chivalrous of him.

What really scares me about the way McCain is handling his campaign is the fact the he's isolating himself from the media. He's isolating Palin from the media. If McCain and Palin can't talk to the media when they're trying to promote and sell themselves to the American public, how are they going to talk to the media when there is a real crisis? What happened to the straight talk express that believes in transparency?

Enough politics. That's frustrating me, but it's not what's bugging me tonight.

What about the crisis on Wall Street? Yes, that is worrying me. Apparently, tonight WaMu is being bought out by JP Morgan Chase. Yikes! I think my econ professor needs to go to Washington and teach our politicians some lessons on how to appropriately re-capitalize/rescue/bailout these banks. Hmm....my econ professor would have said, "Don't go there." Wait, he already said that back in March. He said we opened Pandora's box. I'm a nerd and this stuff interests me. Guess that happens when you've worked for a company that specialized in selling mortgage-backed securities to Wall Street -- yep, those securities with those bad subprime loans. The loans that are now causing our economy to implode. This stuff is close to home.

Hopefully, you've continued reading despite my ramblings about politics and other things. That was all a test to weed through my not-so-loyal-readers. Now this is the good stuff.

Please pray for my friend. Pray for love. Pray for health. Pray for peace.

Yummy in my tummy

I love Vietnamese food. I LOVE LOVE Vietnamese food.

Why go to a Vietnamese restaurant when you can make it at home with your husband?

Last night we made our own Vietnamese food! Dave and I tried a Vietnamese Carmelized Pork with Coriander Rice recipe from my Cooking Light magazine. It was so good! The pork and rice were amazing. The only thing I'd change next time is substituting broccoli for the spinach. I'm not a huge fan of cooked spinach, although it did taste all right mixed with the pork. The recipe was super fast. We'll definitely be making this one again.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Possibly the coolest thing on the web ever...

Have you signed up for freecycle.org? It's awesome. It's basically online classified like Craigslist, but everything is free! You connect to different groups, so I connected to three counties that are by my home and work. Some of the stuff is great. Furniture. Plants. Art. Chain-linked fences. Pianos. Kids' stuff.

I know some of the blogs I visit have posts about saving money. Here's a sure way to save money -- with free stuff.

Check it out.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Still loving life

Last night Dave and I enjoyed the Phil Vassar concert. Since it was at the casino, there was an interesting mix of people -- Die-hard Phil Vassar fans and frequent casino patrons (many of whom looked older and was commenting that they’d never heard of Phil before). Consequently, I had to deal with the awkwardness of wanting to stand up and sing with the knowledge of the people behind me were sitting and wouldn’t be standing for a concert if their like depended on it. But still it was a great show.

A couple of rows in front of us (we were in the sixth row, so they were in the 2nd or 3rd) was a family with two children. They caught be eye because the mom was trying to get them to go up right next to the stage. They had a sign that said “Phil’s Little Fans” and one of the kids (probably 6 years old) was wearing a cowboy hat. I’d be willing to bet that this was their first real concert. I thought it was sweet thing for a family to do together.

So then Phil started playing a song called “My Next Thirty Years.” (He wrote it, but Tim McGraw is probably more known for singing it). It’s a coming of age song…the lyrics talk about how you’re going to spend the next 30 years of your life to live it to the fullest...not living a crazy lifestyle, but choosing to spend it with your family and just enjoy what you’ve been blessed with. The dad took out a sign and went up to the stage. You could tell he was trying to get Phil to read it. I couldn’t read it b/c it was facing the stage, but you could tell it had quite a bit of words on it. Dave couldn’t figure it out either. So when the song was over, Phil went over to the guy and asked the dad to come onto the stage. When the guy got on the stage, I could finally read the sign.

It read, “35 years old, survived cancer twice and still loving life.”

Yes, I got a little emotional reading this guy's sign. Seeing him stand there on the stage getting a hug from Phil. And he got to announce the next song. With his two kids and his wife watching him. I’m sure his families had big smiles on their faces (they were watching their Dad, so I couldn’t see their faces). Proud of their Daddy. Talk about overcoming obstacles and then enjoying life to the fullest with his family.
I was happy for that family. Those kids will always remember going to the Phil Vassar concert with their Mom and Dad and seeing their Dad on the stage. It’s a blessing that the medicine he needed to beat cancer twice exists, so that he could have that moment with his family.

I guess you never know when you’re walking down the street or when your sitting in an auditorium how many people you’ll come across that are cancer survivors. It just helped reinforce my excitement for the Light the Night walk I’m doing in a couple of weeks for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. To me, it verified the importance of raising money for cancer support groups, research, treatment and information booklets.

My mom once told me that her goal in life when she dies is to have made this world a better place. It leave it a little bit better than it was before. It’s simple and there are so many ways we can all try to make our world a little bit better. Please consider donating to my team and help make our world a little bit better for those struggling with cancer, so that they can enjoy their next 30 years with their families.

I’m only $5 away from my goal. Please help me. Every bit helps. You can contribute by visiting my donation page. Thank you so much – especially to those who have already donated!

My Next 30 Years
By Phil Vassar

I think I’ll take a moment, celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years
Hey my next thirty years I’m gonna have some fun
Try to forget about all the crazy things I’ve done
Maybe now I’ve conquered all my adolescent fears
And I’ll do it better in my next thirty years
My next thirty years I’m gonna settle all the scores
Cry a little less, laugh a little more
Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear
Figure out just what I’m doing here
In my next thirty years
Oh my next thirty years, I’m gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers
Maybe I’ll remember my next thirty years
My next thirty years will be the best years of my life
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear
Make up for lost time here, In my next thirty years

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bachelorette party - check; Valleyfair - check;

Next Up:
-Nap
-Phil Vassar


Nicki already scanned this pic, so I thought I'd post it for everyone to see. Valleyfair was a blast. The park was closed to the public and open just for Nicki's company. So we got free admission, free parking and hardly waited in lines all day. These girls like their rides. We went on all the exciting ones, including Wild Thing twice.

Bad news for anyone who likes The Flume. They tore it down! I don't know if they're replacing it or putting in something else -- but right now it's a big hole. I feel bad b/c that was Anthony's favorite in the whole park.

The bachelorette party was fun too. Who can complain about spending a night downtown and staying in a hotel?? I didn't have a camera, but I'm sure I'll be tagged in some on Facebook. ;)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Busy, Fun Weekend!

I can't believe another week is done! It's gone by so fast. It's probably helps that I really like my new job, it's challenging and keeps me busy. But I'm so tired this morning...and my busy weekend hasn't even started yet. I'm trying to be excited, because my weekend is going to be awesome...but what I really want to do is close my eyes and take a nap!

Tonight Dave and I need to clean so our house is ready for the party at our house tomorrow. Tomorrow we're having a BBQ for Jim and Aimee who are getting married in a couple of weeks. It's the pre-party for the bachelor and bachelorette parties that are tomorrow evening and all the guys and ladies are coming over to have lunch. Then I go to the bachelorette party -- we're going out downtown and staying at a hotel somewhere. Sunday I have to drive back home and Nicki is going to pick me up around 10. She's taking three lucky friends (I'm one of them) to Valleyfair. And she made sure that we all love the rides. Dave's doing the bachelor party Saturday night and the guys are sleeping over at our house. Sunday all the guys are going to the football game. Sunday night, we're going to the Phil Vassar concert at Mystic Lake.

Why is it that everything always seems to happen at the same time? Most weekends for us are boring -- then we get a crazy one like this.

Even though I'm really tired, I'm looking forward to it all...and hopefully my enthusiasm will get me through to Monday!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another cabin weekend!

I feel like I'm behind on my posts. It's Wednesday and I'm just now blogging about my weekend at Michelle's family's cabin. Yeah, I was there just a month ago too. But if you know anything about summers in Minnesota, they're best when they're experienced on the shores of a lake. Well, I guess that's true for just about every season in Minnesota.

Actually it was overcast and rainy much of the weekend, but rain is more enjoyable and relaxing when you're safe inside a cabin, looking at the lake from after, lounging in sweatpants, and reading with a blanket over your lap.

We did some fun stuff.

--We went to the candy shop in Hayward. I loaded up on fudge and taffy.

--I caught my first fish! Just one fish. Julia caught five! But hey -- it's another checkmark on my 101 in 1,001 list.

--We watched the Fat Tire mountain bike race that finished at a resort right by the cabin. I think Dave should do it next year...since he already has a mountain bike. Anyone interested in joining him???

--I took a nap on Saturday afternoon.

--I read a lot of the book we're now reading for Book Club, Twilight.

--I got to play with Miss Julia and hang out with Michelle and her parents.

Oh, speaking of Julia, here's one for the "kids say the funniest things" list...

As we drive by a state trooper who was on the side of the road with its lights flashing red and blue, Julia exclaims, "Ooh. I want to go in there!"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Biggest Loser, cool link and a question...

Biggest Loser
Yeah! One of my favorite shows -- The Biggest Loser -- is airing its season premiere in exactly 20 minutes (so you know this is going to be a short post)!

The stories of people overcoming personal issues and losing lots and lots of weight is so inspirational. At the beginning of the season, they are so obese, they don't know much about eating right, and they don't exercise. By the end of the season, they learn so much and they look so great! And I pretty much cry every episode as the stories are so touching.

Doesn't it always seem that the contestants always struggle with self-esteem issues?

(That's not my question, but it brings me to part 2 of this blog)

Cool Link
I think people would be lying to themselves if they say they've never dealt with self-esteem issues. Those issues might not be as bad as the contestants on Biggest Loser, but you probably got some self-esteem issues in the back of your mind that might come out of the closet every once in a while. Lately, I feel like I've been dealing with low self-esteem more than usual. So I came accross this link about ten ways to honor thyself. It's faith-based, but not preachy...so enjoyed reading it and feel like I can apply it to my life. It has some interesting suggestions to help you enhance your life by taking the time to love yourself, which will lead to being happier in all other parts of your life.

http://www.beliefnet.com/gallery/honorthyself.html

The Question
One of the challenges to yourself in this self-love challenge is to find a theme song for your life. I thought this was a great suggestion -- to "find a song that makes you feel good about yourself and snaps you into a state of higher self-esteem and hopefulness." I'm probably thinking too hard, but I can't seem to figure out the right theme song for me. I've had certain theme songs for different times in my life (i.e. Independent Women by Destiny's Child, Love Song for No One by John Mayer) but I don't have one that fits now.

Got any suggestions? What is your personal theme song?

Monday, September 15, 2008

What's in a name??

You have to check out this site.

http://www.publicprofiler.org/worldnames/Default.aspx

What you do is type in your last name. Then it shows a map of the world and it shows the density of where your last name is populated throughout the world.

Here's a couple of examples...

Balow
Country FPM (frequency per million)
UNITED STATES 2.02
GERMANY 1.72
UNITED KINGDOM 0.2
ARGENTINA 0.04

Kloeber
Country FPM
GERMANY 5.85
NETHERLANDS 0.32
UNITED STATES 0.31
SPAIN 0.21
ITALY 0.06

Leaves are changing colors...

One things I observed this weekend at Michelle's cabin is that the leaves up north are already changing colors. And quickly too. There was definitely more reds, yellows and oranges in the trees when we drove home than when we drove to the cabin.

In some ways it is a bummer. This summer seemed to go way too fast.

But it's also a reminder that there are things in life we can't control. Although I certainly wouldn't mind having more control -- and sometimes I try too hard. lol. I just need to let go and just enjoy what you got. Certainly summer was great, but with the dawn of fall we've got new things to look forward too.

I'm looking forward to the beauty of Earth as the trees change into their glorious warm colors. We're going to go apple picking and will enjoy the hayride, the apple juice and caramel apples at the apple orchard. We've got to get in as many trips to the dog park as we can before the weather gets cold. We watch football games (and the Vikings better start winning some games, b/c the losses make my husband mad). We wear warm sweaters and sweatshirts; and drink mochas, hot chocolate and hot apple cider. We get to eat squash and pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie and turkey and cranberries. We don't have to rake leaves at my parents anymore! We've got a major election coming up and debates to watch between the contestants. We have Halloween and get to see kids all dressed up in their costumes.

What are you looking forward to this fall?

P.S. Speaking of football games, my high school soundly defeated Dave's high school on Friday in football! 49-16. He's trying to tell my St. Thomas Academy wasn't my high school (and technically he's right). But my school didn't have football b/c it was all girls, and STA was the boys school next door to mine-- so it's my surrogate football team. And I religiously went to STA football games every Friday night and cheered them on all through high school. Those were good times! And STA football is still the best!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What the tweet?!

I keep seeing and hearing things about Twitter. I've been thinking of checking it out for some time now, so that I can stay on top of the latest and greatest on the World Wide Web. I figure it's probably in the fine print in my job description. Then today, I came across this article on The New York Times website. I was sold. Today I signed myself up. I am sort of skeptical about it, but we'll see how it goes. One cool thing is that I can Twitter via text messages, which is cool since I don't carry around a web-enabled Blackberry like some people (my husband).

So you know what I'll be doing when I'm bored...

...twittering.

I posted my Twitter feed on my blog, so now you can follow me around even when I'm not officially blogging. I'm just giving stalkers the tools they need -- and I'm not even giving them any sort of challenge.

Here's my official Twitter page: http://twitter.com/wolab

Follow me!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Farmer's Almanac: cold winter

I was listening to MPR this morning. The Farmer's Almanac has been released and it's predicting a colder than normal winter. Boo.

Along with the prediction, came a tip that's been used since the 1700's to keep heating costs low. Apparently, you can make it through winter using just one one log. Here's what you do.

Take the log. Run upstairs. Throw it out the window. Retrieve the log. Repeat.

Boo.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

I had a nice surprise today -- guests for dinner. Dave made plans with my friend Michelle, her parents and adorable daughter, Julia, and they all came over for dinner and the football game. After making plans for a dinner party, Dave went to the grocery store to get the goods to make the meal. He put it in the crocked pot and made the whole meal by himself. I love when my husband shows off his skills! He made delicious BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, steamed broccoli and curly fries. Our dinner guests were impressed! Too bad the Vikings aren't so impressive...

On another note, my dad has been talking about starting a blog for a long time now. I've kept telling him how easy it is to do and promising to show him how to do it. Guess he got tired of waiting around for me, cause he emailed me the link to his blog today!! My dad's retired from the military and politics is one of his main interests, so I'm sure that is what he'll mostly be blogging about. If you're interested in learning the truth behind a lot of the issues politicians preach about, check it out. My dad is one of the smartest people I know -- no -- probably the smartest person I know. I know he authentically cares about the issues that divide our country, so I value the things he has to say.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Helping hurricane victims...

I was reading CNN this morning and was surprised by a couple of paragraphs at the end of the article. The article was about people in the Caribbean and in Florida preparing for Hurricane Ike. For some reason, news about hurricanes is always interesting. It might be watching the sheer force of mother nature with the wind and the rain and the flooding. It might be the heart-warming stories of how people survived. In some cases, like Hurricane Katrina, it was the horror of the flooding and seeing people die on the streets because there wasn't any food or water and the chaos that ensued when violence broke out on the streets and the days and days it took for help to arrive. It is watching the paths that these storms take because I don't want them to go near my family in North Carolina. It's the communities that come together after the storm to rebuild their homes and churches and towns. But always, I look for the heart-warming stories. The ones of hope and trust and the ability to rebuild and improve and overcome the challenges Mother Nature presents us with.

So maybe being it was a Sunday morning and I was on my way to church and was purposely thinking about praying those who are facing hard times, but some of the content in this article really stuck out to me. Here it is (I know you've been waiting for it..)

Cuba asked the U.S. to loosen the trade embargo, so Cuba could buy materials to help them recover from being hit by two hurricanes in just as many weeks.

---

"If the government of the United States is really willing to cooperate with the Cuban people in face of the tragedy of the hurricane, it is requested to allow the sale to Cuba of those materials considered indispensable and to suspend the restrictions that prevent U.S. companies from offering private commercial credits to our country for the purchase of food in the United States," said the statement from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"In all truth, the only correct and ethical action ... would be to eliminate totally and permanently the ruthless and cruel economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed against our Motherland for almost half a century," the statement said.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement Friday, after government officials had offered to help Cuban flood victims.

"We do not believe that at this time it is necessary to loosen the restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba to accomplish the objective of aiding the hurricane victims," the statement said.

---

Do you see the problem with this?? Or am I the only one that thinks it's totally unjust for the U.S. to refuse to temporarily loosen a trade embargo so that innocent flood victims -- families with children and grandparents and brothers and sisters just like us -- can buy the supplies they need to so that they can rebuild their homes?? So that they can buy food and water so that they don't starve?? Aren't we all children of God??

Cuba isn't even asking us for a hand out. They want to buy the supplies from us. Last time I checked, our faltering economy would probably benefit from engaging in trade a small island country.

Why does the U.S. dislike Cuba so much that they won't even sell supplies to people in need? I understand that they have a different form of government -- they have communism and a dictator -- but last time I checked the Cold War ended in 1989, almost 20 years ago.

All day since I read the article, this issue has been bugging me. These paragraphs were at the bottom of the article this morning...and the updated version of the article didn't even mention it. I had to scour the CNN website to find the one from this morning, so I could blog about it. Apparently, it's not very newsworthy that the people of Cuba are being ignored by our own government.

I will pray and hope that there will be heart-warming stories in the wake of Hurricane Ike. Perhaps, our government can look at this request for help as an opportunity to do the right thing -- to put aside the differences and disagreements with Fidel Castro and to help the people of Cuba by selling the supplies they need, so that they can rebuild their homes, churches and schools and can have food and water to eat and drink while they rebuild.

On Friday, I called my nieces to see how their first week of school went. Amanda started Kindergarten this week. She told me about her class and the friends she's made. Here's what one of her new friends told her, and she wanted to tell me too.

"Did you know that President Bush doesn't care if people get hurt?"

At the time, it was a simple statement, cute coming from a five year old who is too innocent to know much about the terrible things to go on in our world. But today, after reading the article and being reminded once again about our country letting the needs of humans go unmet and letting innocent kids -- not much unlike my niece -- suffer, the statement rings true in my ears.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Need some humor?

Need some humor to relax after watching the pitbulls attack Obama? There was so much bashing of Obama that I didn't hear any one thing they want to change to fix Bush's mistakes....

Read this. It's a collection of higlights from the late-night TV shows. And it definitely lightened my mood!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fall is near -- I can feel it.

It's amazing how much the weather can change in a day.

Yesterday -- warm, humid and sunny

Today -- cool, windy and overcast

As I walked to my car tonight, I felt like I needed a sweatshirt. Fall is coming and coming soon.

And now I got to go. President Bush is giving his address to the RNC!

Monday, September 1, 2008

September

I always love when Gigi blogs about what she and her family have planned for each month. I always think of doing it -- but too late -- not until the month is half-passed. Not this month! It's only September 1, and here I am, blogging about the things we're looking forward to this month...
  • Weekend at Michelle's cabin
  • Bachelor/bachelorette parties for Jim and Aimee
  • Phil Vassar concert
  • Valleyfair with Nicki and Donna (on behalf of Nicki's work!)
  • My dad's birthday
  • Rachel's birthday
  • Rachel buying her first house and helping her move in (not sure if the latter part qualifies as something I'm looking forward to, but it's something that we'll be doing, I'm sure.)
  • Book club at Katie B's house (we're reading Twighlight).

That's all I can think of. It's not too much, but the top two will probably take up most of our weekends for the month. Some good things to look forward to!!

Check, Check

Tonight, I got to cross off two items on my 101 in 1,001 list!

60. Get a new desk in the loft.
61. Get new blinds for the loft.


So that's what we spent part of the weekend doing. Other memorable moments:
  • Helping Jordan and Melissa move into their townhouse.
  • Going to the Lifetime Fitness pool with Melissa, Leanna and Abby Lynn Kampf.
  • Going to lunch at Friday's with my mom, Rachel and Becky and then going to Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.
  • Hanging out at home with Dave.

We had a good weekend relaxing and hanging out at home. It was nice having with both Dave and I having three consecutive days off with Dave. Back to work tomorrow!