Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thankful Thursday...

This week there isn't any one in thing in particular that I'm thankful for. It's just been an all-in-all great week. I've been spending the week off of work and have stayed pretty busy. One thing I'm definitely not doing is being a lazy bum on the couch (but sometimes watching the dogs do that during the day just makes it tempting to do what they do). But it's just been a good combination of enjoying the time off, cleaning the house, and tackling some projects I'm been dragging my feet on. I've gone to breakfast with my dad, lunch with my mom and breakfast with Krissy. Dave, Jim and I went to a Twin's game. I've taken the dogs on walks and went to the dog park. I've been selling some old furniture on Craigslist and we started refinishing my grandma's dresser. I've probably spent a little too much time reading blogs and Facebook, but that's just part of enjoying the time off.

But my closet still needs to be cleaned out, the people need to pick up the stuff from Craigslist, we still have several more rounds of removing the old varnish off the dresser, my floors need to be vacuumed and the closets organized. I haven't scrapbooked or read my book yet. And my week of is quickly coming to an end.

There is one thing I've learned this week is that there's never going to be enough time to get everything done. And I'm ok with that. I think.

Probably what I've enjoyed most is getting time to do stuff with my husband. It's really great that I have time off and he's transitioning between jobs, so that we've both been home a lot this week. We've gone from just a couple of hours to hang out in the evening to spending several days together. Its awesome! Even though we haven't done much exciting stuff (unless you think running errands or actually running is exciting); I think it's just more pleasant to be able to do it all with the person I love.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The big spring break trip

Many weeks ago, Dave and I went to Lake City, Minn., for our spring break trip. This year, our spring break budget was limited, so an overnight road trip was all we got. And unfortunately, the "spring" weather hadn't quite made it's way to Minnesota yet. It was rainy with snow flurries. Fun, huh?

Lake City is like one of many small, vacation destination towns in Minnesota where it triples in size during the tourist season. Well, a Sunday in early March isn't exactly tourist season. So many of the gift shops weren't open. But I can see why this would be a fun place to visit in the summer. It's situated on Lake Pepin, which is a big lake in the Mississippi River. (I don't really understand how you get lakes within rivers -- since it's all one body of water, my simple mind would think that Lake Pepin is really still the Mississippi River -- but I won't get into a geography debate here.) Lake City is famous because it's the birthplace of waterskiing. It's also the town that my father-in-law grew up.

Here's his old house

Dave and I thought Pappy would appreciate the big Obama poster that's still hanging in the window four months after the election. ;)

Here are my grandparents-in-laws. We searched through town to find the cemetery, where we searched a little more to find their grave. After a phone call (or two), we finally found them! It was my first time visiting their gravestone.

Those are Dave's feet -- not mine.

Lake Pepin is also famous for all the bald eagles the live there. Here's a real geography lesson for you. There is a river that flows into the Mississippi just south of Lake Pepin. The heavy current that occurs causes the water to be open all winter long (it doesn't freeze over with ice), and therefore the eagles can stay in the area all winter and don't have to fly south to a place with water. Dave and I drove down to Wabasha (where Grumpy Old Men was filmed) to visit the National Eagle Center. This place was awesome and one of the highlights of our trip! (yes, we're dorks.) We got to get our photo taken with a real bald eagle and we learned a ton about eagles, so I'm going to dedicate a future blog post to the National Eagle Center. (Yes, I know you can't wait to read all about it! But it'll be worth the wait.)

That's a real eagle. It's not a parrot, and has super-strong talons...so they don't go on the shoulder.

The other highlight of our trip was the b&b we stayed in, The Frog and Bear Bed & Breakfast, specifically. It was such a cool old house filled with antiques and frogs and bears everywhere. My sister, Stevie, would love all the bears! We were the only guests, so we had this big house to ourselves. I dream of living in a big old house someday -- with a big front porch for my rocking chair -- so this was like living the dream (except it was a little cold to be sitting out on the front porch). The innkeepers where spectacular and so hospitable. The actually live in the basement, although we didn't see them at all. They took care of the details, which made us feel like we were special guests. When we came back from dinner they left us a bottle of wine and chocolate truffles right outside the door to our room. Which we consumed while watching "Three Men and a Baby" -- they had a bunch of movies to choose from downstairs and that's the one we choose. haha.

@ The Frog & Bear

But of course, the highlight of the b&b was the breakfast! We awoke to a five course breakfast in the dining room with a fire in the fireplace. And it was all served to us course by course. Fresh juice and tea. Delicious popovers with homemade jams. Fresh fruit with whipped cream. Waffles. Wild rice sausage. And a sundae!!! For breakfast!

Our stomachs were full for the rest of the day. We left Lake City in the late morning and walked around Red Wing for a little while (another small town with lots of antique stores...and famous for its shoes and pottery). Then we missed our dogs a lot, so we picked them up (Otis was at my sister's and Cooper was at my parents') and just relaxed with them at home with everyone taking a nap on the couch.

Visiting a bed & breakfast was #98 on my list of 101 in 1,001. We had a fun time and it's something I definitely want to do again.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What to do...

This week I'm taking a week of vacation! I haven't had a week off just to stay at home to relax, do a lot of spring cleaning and organizing, hang out with the dogs and Dave since NEVER!

Therefore I'm really exciting and planning on not to let laziness overcome me, so that I accomplish exactly what I've set out to do this week. I'd hate to take a week off at work just to do NOTHING.

Here's some of the stuff I want to accomplish:
  • Spring clean and organize
  • Sell some furniture on ebay
  • Refinish a dresser
  • Help my dad w/ some marketing for his book
  • Go to the dog park
  • Scrapbook
  • Schoolwork
  • Read and relax
If you had a week off with no job responsibilities, what would you want to do?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Privacy, Please!

Why is it that all the kids must follow me into the bathroom? They've been hanging out with me all morning. Apparently they want their photos taken!

Here are some updates from the Balow Bunch kids!!

Otis is still the captain of the bunch. He likes to steal rawhides from Cooper. He always has to cuddle with us. These days he's preferring attention from humans than playing with other dogs (except Cooper). He's almost three now and showing no signs of calming down (people are surprised to find out he's older than Cooper).


Don't tell the other pets, but Cooper is my favorite. How can you not fall in love with those big blue eyes? They've melted my heart. Cooper's pretty laid back around the house -- he's everyone's best friend -- even Gracie loves playing with Cooper. When we're not at home, Cooper is pretty shy, so he likes following Otis' lead.


Gracie decided she's not a cat anymore. She wants to be a dog! She's started licking Dave and I, just like the dogs do. Lately, when people come over they are surprised at how friendly Gracie's gotten at her old age of seven. She jumps in everyone's lap (she even let my nieces pet her the last time they were here.) She also loves playing with Cooper (but not Otis). I finally caught the two of them on camera, which you have to watch.

video

Hopefully, animal control doesn't come after me for this video. But you can tell they're just playing. For one, no one is growling or hissing (and both these pets will do that when they feel threatened!). Second, no one is getting up and running away.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thankful Thursday...

Today I'm thankful that my husband has a new job! He was laid off last Friday, but I haven't blogged about it because not a lot of people knew yet and I didn't want people to find out via the blog (well, if you didn't know that, I guess you're find that out via the blog now anyway..lol).

Yes, it only took him 6 days to find a job. Yes, in this terrible economy. Isn't that amazing? Yes, my husband is AMAZING!! He definitely knows how to make a good first impression!

For now he's going to be working in the garden department at Sears. It's a good fit with his background, and should hopefully be pretty flexible as he finishes up his last year of school.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Go Green...Spring Clean..Recycle your electronics for free...

Did you know that Best Buy offers a free electronic recycling program at all of it's stores?

I found out just in time. On Saturday, Shakopee is having a community clean-up day, for $25 per car, you can recycle all of your electronics.

But now, I can just drop the stuff off at Best Buy (it's even closer to my house than the drop off site) for FREE! And I get finally get rid of the broken TV that's been sitting in the corner of my bedroom for a couple of months now!

There's definitely some restrictions -- like only two items per day -- but I think it's a great program to help people get rid of their old and broken electronics. That'll give us room to buy some more -- lol.

Maybe if I'm lucky, my husband will read this post and will take the TV and the broken printer that's in Gracie's closet over to Best Buy today while I'm at work....hint. hint. (Feel free to pass this hint along to him if you're reading this...I'm sure he'd love to hear from you!) And an added bonus for my husband if he does it -- it'll cost $10 to recycle the TV, but he'll get a $10 Best Buy gift card in return.

Check out Best Buy's Web site for more details.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thankful Thursday...

This week, I'm thankful for the firefighters that protect our community. Yesterday, there was a big grass fire in the nature preserve less than a mile from my house! It happened while I was at work, but I could see the big ploom of smoke in the sky from my office that's 15 miles or so away. The nature area is one of my favorite places to go running and biking and it's surronded by homes. If it wasn't for the quick response and hard work from the firefighters, surely homes would have been damaged. The news story from KSTP says that at least six fire, police, and other agencies battled a massive grass fire in Shakopee.

My house wasn't in any danger (in fact, it didn't even smell like smoke at my house as the wind was taking the smoke a different direction.) The fire would have had to cross a whole different neighborhood, some woods and most of my neighborhood to get to my house. And I understand that it's part of nature's life cycle for prairie fires -- but still, this hits really close to home.

I have school tonight, but tomorrow night, I'm going to have to explore the nature preserve and my running/biking trail to make sure the tar path didn't melt.

Here's a news story about it...



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A real Easter egg hunt

Easter Sunday, we were over at my parents' house. My nieces were late, because they were flying home from their spring break trip in Mexico with Becky and Steven. My mom put together some eggs and candy for the girls to find, but misplaced the bag of eggs, so she asked us to find the bag before the girls' arrived. There was even a prize involved!

So the four of us (me, Dave, Rachel and my mom) get up and start looking. We're pretty competitive, so we're running all over the place opening cupboards and closets trying to be the first to find the eggs and claim the prize.

But we couldn't find the eggs. We searched and searched. In the kitchen. In the living room. The laundry. The garbage. The garage. The basement. My parents' bedroom. Everywhere. We exhausted every possible hiding place and couldn't find the eggs!

We even asked St. Anthony to help us.

We questioned whether or not my mom really put together the eggs or if she was delusional.

We questioned whether the dog, Nels, stole the eggs and ate the candy.

We questioned whether my dad stole the eggs and ate the candy.

My nieces arrived and we still couldn't find the eggs.

Dave asks, "So what's the prize?"

He's backing up towards the laundry room, saying, "I have an idea." (My nieces are playing school down in the basement.)

He comes back out of the laundry room with a bag of eggs. "So what's the prize?" he asks again and smirking.

Did Dave find the eggs earlier in the day and kept us all in the dark?!?

He says he didn't....but I have my suspicions.

And the prize was....well, there was no prize, except the satisfaction of saving the Easter egg hunt for the girls!

Monday, April 13, 2009

We did it!

We survived our first family trip! It actually went much better than I anticipated. I was worried that the dogs (especially Otis) would keep trying to climb in my lap during the car ride. I was worried that they would bark when we left them in the motel room. I was worried that the barking would cause other guest to complain. I was worried that they were going to spend too much time alone in the motel.

But none of that happened!

Well, Otis did try to climb into my lap in the car, but we invested in a travel hammock to try to keep him in the back as well as keep the car a little cleaner. It didn't work perfect, but it slowed Otis down enough (although he could still jump over).

I was most pleased the the dogs seemed to behave when we left them in the motel room. It probably helped that there weren't lots of people staying there, so it was pretty quiet. I'm sure the enjoyed watching CSPAN while we were out (had to find a channel that didn't have dogs which Otis likes to bark at).

The motel also had a great path that went down to a beach that we could let the dogs run free on.

The whole purpose of this trip was to celebrate Jim's 30th birthday. It was our first time at Jim and Aimee's house in Frazee, Minn. It's a really small town outside of a little bit bigger (but still small town) town called Detroit Lakes. The town is so small that the restaurant in town is called, "The Restaurant," because it's the only restaurant in town. You may have heard of Frazee because it's home of the world's largest turkey....lol. Yeah, probably not. But it was a very nice small town, indeed.

After seeing the turkey (and Jim isn't the world's largest turkey), we went bowling with a bunch of friends that were all there to celebrate Jim's big 3-0.

That evening we went to the Easter Vigil to see Aimee get baptized, confirmed and have her first-communion, which was followed by a late-night venture to Perkin's (drove up to Detroit Lakes).

In the morning, we went to brunch with Jim and Aimee and their family at The Restaurant and then drove back home to go to my parents' for Easter dinner.

There wasn't any drunk stupidity, wild, crazy, party happenings to report. Guess that's what happens when one turns 30. Things slow down a little. Yet, it was great to see friends celebrating life, Easter and faith.

Hope everyone had a great Easter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Another first for Cooper....and the family

Today, we're going on our first trip together with all the dogs! We've done a couple with just Otis in BC (before Cooper). Now it's time to do an adventure with the whole family!

We may need some prayers! I'm not sure how this is all going to go. (Thankfully, it's just one night...just in case the boys misbehave (i.e. bark tons)!

Stay tuned!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Getting back in shape. With a new running partner. A stranger in a car pulls over to talk to me.

Intrigued by my titles? You have to read this entire post to get it. :)

Yesterday it was time to face what I'd let myself become. Out of shape.

There's several reasons excuses as to why I've stopped running the last nine months or so.

1) It's been really cold, and I don't like cold
2) I don't want to slip on ice or maneuver around snow banks
3) Running on a treadmill is so much harder than running outside
4) I haven't had a good running partner

Let's face it, Dave's in much better shape these days and I don't want to deal with the hard time he'll give me when discovers I can't run more than two miles. And I've parted ways with other running partners. Several of whom switched jobs (including myself), so we don't have the great running paths steps from our office). One of whom I don't even talk to anymore.

And then there's Otis. I tried being running partners with him before we had Cooper, but it just didn't work out. He poops way too many times (gets too excited about running w/ me) which end up bouncing around in the bags that I have to carry the bags around, which is a gross enough reason for me to leave him at home. But there's also the fact that he doesn't have a good sense of endurance. It takes him a mile to calm down enough to actual run next to me, and then by the third mile he's too tired and falls way behind. I don't want to torture him, so we end up walking back home.

After we got Cooper, I knew that it'd be impossible to try and get a run completed with two dogs. But this week, I had an epiphany. Cooper just might be my perfect running partner. He always poops before we start walks and usually always its just the one time. He doesn't pull like Otis and is generally happy just healing on my side. He's a little husky, so he could use a little extra exercise.

So yesterday, when it was warm and sunny and I had no more excuses for not running, I grabbed Cooper and we headed outside.

And he ran on my side just like that's what he was born to do.

The one time I stopped to fix his leash (surprisingly I didn't have to stop for shortness of breath!), he looks at me with his bright blue eyes as if saying, "Come on , Mom. We're not done yet!"

As we were rounding back into our neighborhood, a stranger in the car at the stop sign pulls down her window (shouldn't that have scared me off to run home faster?!). She says to me, "Your dog is so beautiful. He looks so happy."

And that pretty much solidified the fact that Cooper is my new running partner. Anything that makes my little guy happy makes me happy!

And don't worry. I took Otis on a walk when we got home from the run.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thankful Thursday...

Today I'm thankful for dry ground.

Last night we made our first venture to the dog park this spring season. We took a gamble, betting that the wet, muddy ground caused by the melting snow would be gone. It'd be a huge mess having to muddy and wet dogs, so we shy away from the dog park when the snow melts.

The bet paid off! The ground was dry! And the dogs had so much fun. We only walked around the park once, but the way the dogs ran (in circles around us the whole time), they probably did about 2 or 3 laps.

Now we can get the boys to the park more often, which makes them the happiest boys in the world!

The dog park trip wouldn't have been possible without the longer days we've been having. So I'm thankful for that too. It's so refreshing to be active outside in the evenings!

Not to get all philosophical, but when I wrote, "I'm thankful for dry ground," I couldn't help but think of dry ground metaphorically about my life. I'm thankful for the stability that Dave and I have in our lives -- especially as the world around us seems so unstable. We are on dry ground. Love is our dry ground. Our belief in God is our dry ground. The support from our family and friends is our dry ground. Our dry ground make the shaky days bearable. Our dry ground provides the path that we're walking and it's taking us where we want go. And that path that we're walking is so much better with the dry ground beneath our feet.

We're Newlyweds!

Ok...technically, we've been married for three years, but today we are Newlywed's. Dave and I are the featured couple on the Newlywed's blog. All my loyal blog readers, go check us out and also check out the rest of Jenna's Newlywed blog!

This is my first time being featured on a blog (besides my own, where I'm featured everyday. lol), so it's pretty exciting for me. Thanks Jenna for featuring me. It's really an honor!

If this is the first time to my blog, WELCOME! I've really enjoyed finding some great blogs through the Newlywed's weekly featured Newylwed couple, so I'm happy that you all have a chance to get to know me too. And you're pretty much guaranteed that if you leave me comments, I'll check out your blog too. Let's be friends. :)


One thing I should add: The photo that of Dave and I on the Newlywed's blog appears courtesy of my sis-in-law, Katie Mathews Photography. She's having a contest right now where you can win free wedding coverage from her. Sweet!!! Get contest details.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Britney.

Last week I had a lot of fun at the Britney Spears concert in Minneapolis. I’m glad I went – it was fulfilling a childhood dream to see her in concert. The production-side was really good…amazing costumes and dancers and actual circus jugglers. It seemed so surreal to see her dropping down from the ceiling as the concert started. Seeing her really comeback. Seeing her really performing again. I was finally seeing her in concert.

You probably would need to have known me when I was in high school and college in order for you to fully understand why I say going to the concert was fulfilling a dream. And that's really what it was -- fulfilling a childhood dream. I don't really have the time, passion or desire to follow Britney on like I used to. But I digress...

Britney. So if you've heard anything about her concert, you've probably heard two things. 1) She isn't actually singing. 2) She's distant from the audience. Both are totally true. She didn’t say “Hey, Minneapolis”….or “Welcome to my show" until after the 3rd or 4th song. She does have a mic attached, but she didn’t even appear to be trying to sing her songs. They didn’t have a jumbotron (I think b/c they didn’t want people in the nose bleeds to see she wasn’t always moving her lips). So it just seemed like it was one big dance recital. I thought she sang danced to a good mix of old songs and new songs....which is good b/c I haven't bought her new CD and don't know all the songs on that album.

There's one thing I became aware of at the concert: if I ever have a girl, she's going to hate me! Most of the crowd was probably my age, but there were some teenagers -- 14 or 15 or so -- there with their moms. And I couldn't believe what those girls were wearing! Short, short, short spandex booty skirts that barely covered their butts. They had shirts that were just as revealing. They had some severe orange skin issues going on from too much tanning. Way too much make-up to be appropriate. They looked just like Miley Cyrus. I thought Miley was the only 16-year-old who dressed that way (because she's famous), but apparently teenagers in Minnesota (and probably everywhere too) do too.

The opportunity to go to the concert was really cool. When the tickets were about to go on sale, I saw a status for a friend from high school that said, "Want to go to Britney in a suite? Contact me ASAP!" Right when I saw that, Melissa emailed me and said, "Did you see Bria's status? We should go." So we emailed Bria and said we wanted in if there were any tickets left for the suite (even though I probably haven't talked to Bria in 5 years, but Melissa had), and that's pretty much how I got my ticket for the concert. It was cool having a suite. We had our own bathroom. We had the option for bottle service. They have to check your tickets when you come on to the suite level to make sure you are allowed to be there. If you get tired of the show, you can go into the suite and sit on a couch (but I didn't do that!).

That's pretty much the night. Here's some pics from the evening!

Ms. Britney Spears. Can you spot her?



Krissy and me. And a Britney ice sculpture. I think it's kinda freaky that it looks like Krissy's standing w/ someone...but it's the photo behind us.

Bria and me.

Monday, April 6, 2009

What's going on? -- April

It's already almost a week into April and I haven't shared what The Balows are up to this month. It's a pretty exciting month. And I'm really excited for the green grass and flower blossoms and warm weather, which will happen this month!!
  • Britney Spears concert (this was actually on Friday and it was a great way to start the month. Stay tuned for a post and photos!)
  • Jim's 30th Birthday -- We'll be traveling to Detroit Lakes to help Jim celebrate and will be staying in a hotel for the first time with both dogs! (scary!)
  • Easter
  • Jack's baptism
  • A week of no work. I have to take a week of unpaid vacation, but at least I have a job and I'm really looking forward to having time off to do some spring cleaning, hang out with the dogs, help my dad with some marketing ideas for his book, and probably do some school work. Maybe I can squeeze in some time for some much-needed relaxing!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Chicago and Baby Jack

Two words can summarize by recent trip to Chicago: Jack and food.

The trip occurred last weekend when Melissa and I flew to Chicago to visit Erin and John and their new baby boy, Jack.

The last girls' weekend in Chicago was only 1 1/2 years ago, but apparently we've matured a lot since then. Last time we could be seen hanging out in downtown Chicago until the early morning. Not this trip. When John suggested we go out, we didn't want to go anywhere. We just wanted to stay home and watch movies, eat brownie sundaes and take turns holding Jack.

Although, not-so-coincidentally, we did take Jack into a few Irish pubs for lunch. One time a large pub crawl crew came into the bar as we were finishing up lunch. Apparently, having a baby a bar is a great way to get attention from guys (actually they were giving attention to the baby, not us), and it's also a great way to get some nasty looks from girls.

And a trip to visit Erin couldn't be complete without going downtown to Michigan Ave to go shopping. We went to the Coach store, we apparently the sales people were attention starved from lack of shoppers. I've never seen so many people help me find something that I'm not looking for. Like Coach rain boots. The girl says, "Aren't the C's cool. They're inspired from some art movement and they look like they're moving... blah..blah...blah. What size do you guys want? You all have to try them on." So we obliged and tried on the boats. I couldn't see the C's moving until I put the boots on my feet and looked in the mirror while I walked around. Then I got it.

I think I gained at least 5 pounds from all the food we consumed. It was all well worth it though. When I only get to Chicago once a year or so, I have to go all out. Thai food. Irish food. Italian food. Mexican food. Delicious!

The highlight was definitely seeing the Luckey's. It's so exciting to see Erin and John become parents. Jack was born several weeks premature, but is thriving and growing quick! In two months, he's already tripled his birth weight! He constantly likes being held, so that was great for Melissa and I since we went to Chicago to hold the little guy. The second he was put in his car seat, he'd start crying. We cuddled with him. We sang him little songs. Kissed his forehead. Fed him bottles. Let Erin change his diapers. In a couple of weeks, Jack will be in Minnesota for his baptism, so I'll get to see him again soon! Although it'll just be for a little bit.

Here's some pics from the trip.


Me and Jack

Awake and playing with his Auntie Jenny


Playing with Auntie Melissa

The aunties wore Jack out. Can they make baby clothes any cuter?

Jack sleeping in his favorite spot -- on his mommy!

Melissa's mom made this bib for Jack.

Can you see the C's move? Of course, we took a photo of the Coach boots!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thankful Thursday...

I'm thankful for my home!! With traveling to Chicago over the weekend and the numerous evening engagements I've had lately, I haven't spent very much time at home. I love my house. I love the dogs, cat and husband that live in it with me. And sometimes the best nights are spent with everyone laying on the couch (dogs and cat and Dave and I) all cuddly and close to one another, watching TV and falling asleep before the 10:00 news starts.

And I must add that cashing in on a great deal is exciting and I'm thankful for those opportunities when they arise. It's a win-win. I can get something new and cute to spruce up my wardrobe. And I don't have to feel guilty about spending lots of money. Case in point: finding an adorable gray skirt on the clearance rack at Kohl's for $8. Plus, I had a take an extra 15% off coupon. It was all meant to be, because today I had something cute to wear! (Is anyone else completely tired of heavy, bulky winter clothes and ready to break out spring skirts and capris and tank tops?)