Saturday, February 22, 2014


I neglected to put my battery back in my camera after re-charging it this morning.

I was so bummed about that.

I drove dozens of miles over inches of ice covering hours of slow driving to fulfill her birthday wish - to visit the arboretum and check out the new display of fairy gardens. I turned the "on" dial of my camera to catch all of the beautiful moments and scenery. No power. Battery left at home. My fault. Total bummer for me.

I didn't have a working camera to capture her joy on her birthday.

I was looking forward to all the other awesome photo opportunities of the outing. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is gorgeous with all this snow covering its terrain.

I. I. I. I. I.

This day was not about me.

It was about her. My beautiful fourteen year old who didn't care if my camera was working or not.

She had a ball with her friend Emmy and was blessed to spend time with her mom and sisters. We hiked in thigh-deep snow, played checkers by the fire, soaked up the sun and humidity in the conservatory and tasted delicious desserts.

Dad honored her at breakfast before heading to the Northern frozen tundra to camp and do other crazy guy stuff.

What more could a girl want?

Happy Birthday, Daughter! You are lovely.

And very forgiving.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Up and At 'Em

Snow day today. Kids are off school and husband is working from home.

Yet here we are, awake early and facing the effects of the overnight blizzard.

I took in the scenery of the neighborhood.

Ben and Kate tackled the plowed in driveway.

That girl was out there before breakfast!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Go Go Gophers

Looking for a fun family outing? Check out the No. 14  U of M Golden Gophers women's gymnastics team as they compete at the Sports Pavilion on campus. Remaining season schedule is here.

We attended their meet and win against Michigan State. Youth tickets are $5, adults $8, and it is well worth the price. You get to sit close to the action. The whole atmosphere is fun and encourages good sportsmanship and fan participation.

Here's the mascot and team members leading us in the rally song (which is chanted about 118 times throughout the event.)

It is just fun to watch good gymnastics - where the scores hover in the 9.8 region most of the evening. We were close to the beam and marveled at the cool mounts and dismounts.

The night we attended was extra special with an autograph signing by the whole team.

The evening opened with three Special Olympic athletes performing their routines on the floor. It was especially cool for me to see one athlete with downs syndrome perform - she had a strong body and a big smile.

At each meet there is also a performance by a local gymnastics club so you get to see very young gymnasts perform as a whole team on the floor.

One piece of advice: Bring your own water. I practically needed to take out a loan to buy one bottled water for the five of us to share from the concession stand.

Second piece of advice: Plan to spend an extra hour or so watching your young one bend and flip and point and tuck and jump when you get home. She will be inspired after watching these fine athletes.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hand Towels and Hamstrings

One whole hour?!

Didn't think I could do it. Would have preferred to watch the Olympics live while letting the Lindor Milk Chocolate Truffles my husband gave me on Valentine's Day melt in my mouth.

But I chose to try today's episode from and I am thankful I did.

Jessica changes it up with this Mash Up video - some kick boxing, core strengthening, jump rope / jack moves, floor work.

I love the use of hand towels. For me it added a whole new dimension to exercise.  I have just enough usable space on our laminate basement floor to follow along. Other things taking up space include a soon to be installed toilet, large assortment of cardboard (to be turned into a medieval castle sometime this week), and just stuff, lots of stuff.

Jessica keeps it lively and fun with this one.

I even said "hello" to my hamstrings. They screamed back, "Stop, we've been happy being so dormant for so long. What is happening?"

An hour well spent.

Ouch Abs

"But it hurts to work out."

I know.

I did this six minute abs workout and ow! ow! ow! ow! ow! ow!......I was very verbal during this workout as my weak abs woke up and realized I was asking them to do things that hadn't been done in years.

I cried out in pain so loud my daughter ran down the stairs and said, "Mom, it sounds like you are giving birth!"

#1: How would she know?

#2: How would I know? C-sections spared me from the trauma of natural child birth.

But this workout below generates the good kind of pain, and it can be modified it to your level of pain tolerance....take it slow, do a few less reps, rest a little longer between's up to you.

The whole routine goes quickly I promise.

Pain is not an excuse to not exercise. When I feel the burn, I know something is working.

Try it!

It feels so good to have done it. And the pain is temporary. Forgettable. Much like labor is, I am told.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Kate Spade Eyewear

In addition to similar DNA, their surname, and the fact they all live under the same four month old roof, what do these girls have in common?
Yes! They all wear glasses. Eye wear is the new thing in our household. (Aside: I don't ask the girls to pose for photos, other than to ask for a decent smile once in awhile. They do this on their own. Cracks me up.)

Notice The "Beauty Shelf" has a new item.
I feel so left out - of the folks in the family who need corrective lenses, that is.

One daughter wears them all the time, another most of the time, and the third just in school. I guess seeing the board from the back row is a good thing. I learned that she relies mostly on hearing her teachers read their notes rather than on reading them. Ahhh! Well, I can't be on top of everything.

One recent Saturday morning, we headed to Pearl Vision - After the three exams were complete, we took some time to shop. We walked out with a couple of new frames.

That morning I discovered I love Kate Spade eye wear. Really. We all kept pulling them off the display shelf and making a "try on" pile. The choices were all adorable. The color on the inside of the frames seems to make one's eye color pop.

These were my favorite.

The color and detail on the inside of the frames are darling. They make the glasses.

Now I get to see them every day on my lovely daughter!
I have been told by many people that my day is coming and maybe not so far around the corner. Cheaters.

If and when that happens I will definitely be shopping for a look like these. 
I figure if glasses need to be a daily accessory, embrace it - go cute. Go Kate Spade!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sakana Sushi!

photo by Bob Cunningham

Yesterday evening we checked out a restaurant very close to home and serving one of my favorite cuisines - Japanese! Any time I can eat salmon, cucumber, shrimp and avocado in one dish, I am game. A spicy mayo and eel sauce made it divine. This was a date night dinner to remember.

Sakana Sushi and Asian Bistro (three locations in the Twin Cities) offers gorgeous plates of sushi and a variety of other menu items from other Asian countries.
The Thai lettuce wraps were warm and delicious - a bit messy to eat, but worth it. I am inspired to find a recipe and try it out on the whole family. Part of the whole experience for me is appreciating the variety of dishware that is used to serve each menu item. Call me simple, but I like the look of a table that displays small square plates, long rectangular ones, and a tall martini shaped dish (for the calamari appetizer we ordered).

Oh, you also have to be fairly competent in eating with chopsticks. No silverware is provided.

Ben tried sake for the first time. The first glass was a refreshing, cool drink with a taste of cucumber. The second was not as good in my opinion. When you order sake, I learned you start with the sweetest and move to a less sweet glass. Apparently my tastes hover around the sweeter varieties.

Sakana is definitely a place we will frequent again. We could eat at a booth, the bar or at the counter watching the pros work their magic making sushi right there in front of us.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Peace of Wild Things

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

I fell asleep while watching TV and woke to Wendell Berry reciting his poem to a church audience. Just days before I had read it for the first time; someone had posted it on the board in the faculty office. I cried inside that day. Then cried aloud some more as I read my photocopied page. I read it often.

So tender and true and touching. It just speaks to what I need.  We are healed of pain and hurt in so many ways. Resting in the peace of God's beautiful natural world is one powerful way.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

No Space? No Problem.

"But I don't have space to work out."

This may be a common objection to exercising in your abode. 

I understand. We live in a small rambler type house. Each room is small. And there are five of us and all our stuff all over. Especially in Winter it feels like we are bursting at the seams with normal use of each room. Designating a space to exercise seems near impossible. How I envy those with a home gym!

Sadly for me, I cannot use the excuse of no space to keep me from exercising in my home.

Jessica Smith of made it too easy for me.

In the video below she completes a high intensity interval workout in a corner of her home.

Inspired, I turned our living room into my exercise studio for 30 minutes.

I slid the coffee table to the right and worked out with Jessica. I used only about a 4x4 foot space in front of our fireplace. The brick step came in handy to prop the laptop and to use for part of the routine. My five pound weights were close by to work the arms.

No excuses is not an issue.

Sweating in the living room feels good!

Try it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Kisses From Mom

I finally made it to Sewtropolis, a cute independent fabric store in town. I walked in with great hopes of being inspired. Inspired for the homemade gifts I intended to make for my family for Christmas.  I walked out with two inspirations and one stack of pre-cut squares of fabric.

I chose to sew the squares together to make the front of a throw pillow for my daughter's bed. But it is much more than a decorative piece for her bed.
Kate read a book called Kisses From Katie, a story told by a young woman who left her comfortable life in the US and moved to Uganda. She is the mother of 13 adopted girls.
The name of the book and the tiny squares I was hoping to sew together gave me the idea to make a pillow that would show my love for my daughter over and over and over.

I love the variety of color and pattern in the squares. The ease of buying a pre-cut stack of coordinating fabrics makes this a doable project in a short amount of time.

I sewed a pocket on the back of the pillow cover.

Then I made a few starter note cards with a heart decoration at the top. I used scraps of fabric and ironed the hearts onto cardstock paper using an iron on bond product.

Periodically I write a love note to my daughter and leave it in the pocket. A little "kiss" from mom.

She enjoys receiving these random notes and anticipating the next one; Kate highly values words of affirmation.
This pillow falls under the category of the "gift that keeps on giving". I like to consider ways a gift can continue to bless someone and be meaningful in multiple ways for them.

To my dismay Sewtropolis is now closed. You can still take sewing classes, I believe, and purchase items online, but the cute corner store is no longer open.

Oh well.

The second inspiration I walked away with will be better shared in the Spring. The giant mounds of snow we have now prevent me from taking pictures of this one. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 3, 2014


"Four sommeliers attempt to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world."


Never been able to say that word accurately.

From now on I will refer to a wine expert as a "somm".

I learned the abbreviated term from a 2012 documentary I watched on Netflix with the same name.

"SOMM" shows the ins and outs of a few young eager wine experts who spend all their time and energy preparing for and taking the Master Sommelier exam. A master sommelier is the highest level of distinction that a person can achieve in wine expertise. The documentary noted at the end that there are 197 in the world. 

Last week as I watched the show I imagined that one's experience in preparation for the three-part exam must be like what a person goes through to study for the bar exam or for medical boards exams...maybe even harder. It was really impressive to learn what they learn. A candidate has to "know every single wine on the planet." And everything about where the wine came from. And everything about how it was made. And so on.

The blind tasting portion of the exam involves identifying the name and year of a wine by smelling and tasting it. The candidate has 25 minutes to accurately identify a flight of six wines (three white, three red). The theory portion of the exam covers history, geography, production and every other known fact related to wine. The service part of the exam tests a person's knowledge as they communicate wine choices, present and serve wine to someone as if they are at a fine restaurant.

In addition to what they need to know, I was struck by the camaraderie of the candidates. They are competitors and teammates at the same time. They all want the same thing - which very few will ever achieve - but they choose to go to great lengths to help each other pass the exam. (Think quizzing each other through their stacks of flashcards via face time at 1:00am.) These folks spend more time with each other than with their significant others. You might say the other candidates become their significant others during the months and years of preparation.

Well, I was impressed. I love wine, but have very little knowledge of it. This film helped me appreciate those whose life's work it is to learn and live in the world of wine. To do what they do is to know a ton about the world.

A toast to those who achieve this level of success!

Watch the trailer here.