Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Great Minnnesota Get-Together

It is State Fair time again...Did you know that the Minnesota Stat Fair is the 3rd largest fair in the United States and the largest state fair in the United States in terms of average daily attendance? Also, it is held at the state fairgrounds, adjoining the Saint Paul campus of the U of M. The site is in the suburb of Falcon Heights, Minnesota, midway between St. Paul and Minneapolis.

One last interesting fact: Since its inception in the 1800s, the fair has been held every year with only five exceptions: in 1861 and 1862 due to the Civil War and Dakota Indian Conflict, in 1893 because of scheduling conflicts with the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1945 due to war-time fuel shortages, and in 1946 due to a polio epidemic.
I didn't know all these interesting facts.

The highlights for us include...

The Giant Slide with Ben
Seeing the quilt that mom made for Adele win FIRST prize! Go mom.
Seeing Andrew win THIRD prize in the Spam Cooking Contest and learning that Ry got fourthSweet Martha's Bucket of CookiesEmily and Andrew on the bouncy trampolines.

Ryan and I being shot 200 feet into the air...

*I yell "hi Emmie" because people on the ground could hear our screams through the speakers."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Target Field

Minnesota loves the Twins. I mean really loves the Twins. For most of my childhood, the Twins played in the Metrodome. The main drawback (or benefit depending on who you ask) of the Metrodome was that it was indoor baseball. For me, indoor meant climate control. I enjoy climate control. I enjoy escaping rain or the humidity or even the cold depending on the day of the week. Hello...this is Minnesota, land of the extreme weather.
Anyway, they built a new stadium last year right next to the Target Center and creatively named it Target Field (like Ry says, "Minnesota really loves Target"). The majority of Minnesotans were excited to bring the game back outside where it I jumped on the band-wagon and got excited about Target Field. Who am I to say where the Twins should play baseball?
Speed ahead to today, and I finally got to experience the Target Field and an outdoor Twins game with my family. My sister Laurie and her husband Nate are visiting from Provo. My mom and dad came along too. It was fun to experience Target Field for the first time all together.As I was taking pictures, Ry explained that we were there to watch the game and not take pictures. Hasn't he learned yet? Pictures are mandatory. Anyway, we had a great time and yes Target Field is beautiful. Yes, the food is incredible. Parking was another story, but when isn't it? Unfortunately the Twins lost, but I was happy in my mostly shady seat eating my delicious hot dog and chips enjoying the great outdoors.
Go Twins!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

That place I've Never Been

Have you ever seen this image before?Fact #1: It has been used in many of Minnesota publicity cards, calenders etc.
Fact#2: I have lived in Minnesota most of my life. Basically, I have lived within a 1/2 hour of Minneapolis most of my life.
Fact#3: According to my memory, I have NEVER seen this sculpture in real life, even though it is in Minneapolis...a mere 30 minutes away and I have been curious about it for a long time.
Today was the day. I became a real Minnesotan. We went to the Sculpture Garden near the Walker Art Center. We saw this sculpture up close and personal. I learned that the cherry squirts water out of its stem, something I had never noticed before. Also, the artist choose a cherry to represent compromise and he was inspired while eating-totally relate-able, right?

This evening was beautiful and there are many other cool/strange sculptures found in this garden.I really enjoy it when I am told what the artist was inspired by or what they were trying to portray in their art. I am not creative/inspired enough to come up with these ideas/interpretations on my own.For example: this one is a huge glass fish. The plaque explained that the artist was inspired by a childhood memory. He used to go to the fish market with his grandma. She would buy a huge fish and let it swim in the bathtub. He would play with the fish for a while..then his grandma would kill and cook it for dinner. He loved the way the fish would move in the water.
This one we quickly named, Big Red One That Is Not a Slide.
I like the fact that these works of art are just in a park for everyone to experience and enjoy.I also like the fact that Ben, Louise and the girls were able to meet us there for a stroll in the park. Cousins (and aunts and uncles) always make things more fun!This got me thinking...Am I the only one that has that "thing that I've always wanted to do, but never have done?" I am not really talking about big bucket list items...just the easily done things that get put off. Maybe I am the only one. I am just glad I finally did this. The Sculpture Garden is a gem. I feel so Minnesotan!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Spam at the Fair

***I wrote this post earlier, but due to the contest, decided that I should not publish it until now****

Summer is coming to an end. School supplies have been purchased and backpacks are ready (almost). Another end of summer sign is the Minnesota State Fair. It is almost here! We look forward to the deep fried foods, chocolate chip cookies, pork chops on a stick, lemonades, people watching and of course the big slide.Attending the fair is really fun, but participating in the fair is even better. My mom, Louise and Emily have each entered (and won) different contests over the past years. This year, my mom found the Spam kids contest and asked the kids if they wanted to enter. Of course they said, "yes." Who wouldn't want to enter a Spam contest? Meat in a can. This is exciting stuff!
Each child got to find, tweak and practice their different Spam breakfast recipes. They each chose very unique recipes. It is impossible to choose a favorite...they are each really good. To add to the fun, the kids were featured on a local Apple Valley website. The article is great, but the reporter did not use my favorite quote. She asked Ryan if he had ever eaten Spam before. He answered, "I have had Spam before, not a lot. Really just for a special treat." Hilarious.

We have bought and consumed more Spam in the last two weeks than our entire lifetimes. The judges will be looking at taste, presentation and simplicity. I think the kids nailed it!

These recipes have the power to turn anyone into a Spam lover. Emily is entering this yummy breakfast sandwich. It is scrambled eggs, cheese, vegetables and Spam all wrapped in a yummy biscuit. The eyes are cream cheese and Spam cubes...too cute. She is calling "Walkabouts." The portable breakfast.Ry's recipe is an egg, Spam and home-made salsa creation. Pretty impressive and he is pretty proud of it.

Andrew is entering this open breakfast sandwich, and calling it Breakfast Surprise.
He calls it that because it is so surprising how yummy and how easy this recipe is. It is english muffin, slice of Spam, egg salad and melted cheese on top.
Good luck judges!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Grandkids Camp 2011

We got home from our trips and two days later Grandma and Grandpa kidnapped the kids. The kids didn't see it coming. Luckily, our still mostly packed bags were still in the living room, so the kids didn't notice a newly packed bag sitting in the living room waiting to go. It was time for Kids Camp 2011. The kids look forward to Grandkids Camp all year! Why wouldn't they? It is filled with fun activities, yummy food, cute t-shirts and lots of love. A key part of Grandkids Camp is that parents are not involved. The kiddos get to do EVERYTHING with just Grandma and Grandpa. So it is a win-win-win situation. I got a hold of the pictures taken this year....after all a picture is worth 1000 words right?
They began the fun at Minnehaha Falls.I love this park set in Minneapolis. It is fun to watch the falls and then walk down a short paved path to get your toes wet. From the pictures, it looks like there was ice-cream involved. Then they went back to Apple Valley for their traditional treasure hunt and time capsule.. About now...Erik and I were enjoying the most delicious kid-free cheese burgers at Red Robin-in case you were wondering.
After the treasure hunt, they jumped in the car and went to Grand Slam for some miniature golf. Just tap it in, tap it quote anyone?
Then it was home to Grandma and Grandpa's place for swimming.
About now Erik and I were kid-free at the movies...
I hear that the campers were up until about times.

Day 2... While Erik and I slept in to an obscenely late hour and then I went back to the theater to see The Help (loved the book, really liked the movie), this ambitious group went to the Dakota County Fair!! I have never been to this fair, although I hear it is fun...and now I see it is fun too.
Huge slides (that turn out to be water slides-surprise), climbing walls, mega-trampolines, pony rides, a lumberjack show and food, food, food. Look, Fiona even got a nap in for the day. What a good girl.

The evening ended with more swimming, fishing and the closing ceremonies back at my parents' house. Each person who participated in the camp gets a turn to say what they love about each of the other participants. It is a great tradition that instills kindness, thoughtfullness and builds people up. This year parents were invited to see the ceremony. We heard about good helpers, great cookers, fancy T-shirts, and excitement about Adele joining next year. But my favorite was Fiona's turn as she passed out stickers and told people they were "The best swimmer in the whole world I never seen!" You can see the video here. She is so cute.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Warrenton and Astoria Day

We went to our movie again this year at the Seaside Theater. This year we saw Crazy, Stupid Love. I love movie traditions! Lauren and I started this years ago, we have seen among others...Cinderella Story, Uptown Girl, Bewitched, Pursuit of Happiness, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, Failure to obviously some were better than others..This year Joanne and Lauri came along. The movie was pretty good, but the company was better and NONE of us saw the twist coming....
We also had our last evening on the beach. It was a beautiful cool night and we took our last stroll along the shore. We tried to suck in enough ocean air to last us another year. As we drove away, we called out "Everybody say 'bye house!'" Name that movie quote......This house is now my favorite place to rent. I look forward to staying there in the future!
We then drove up the shore to visit Warrenton and Astoria. Warrenton is right across Young's Bay from Astoria. Erik lived here when he was a child. He pointed out some of his old homes and bought us soft serve cones from the Dairy Maid.

Glenda is buried in Warrenton, Oregon. This was our first trip back to the cemetery. I explained to Andrew about the tombstone and her signature. We had time to completely focus on our memories of Glenda. Her grave site in on the hillside, near her parents.

Erik also has family in the area. We stopped by Aunt Karen's house-she is Glenda's aunt. She is such a happy person! She is turning 90 in three months.
She entertained us with a story from her childhood. Her dad paid her brother a silver dollar to bury a smelly dead horse on their property. Her brother (I think it was Carl Erik's grandpa) got Karen to help out. She said they dug a hole and pushed the horse in...but it ended up with all four feet in the air. What to do? So she ended up chopping the legs off the horse. (She added more detail with squirting juices) I did NOT see that coming. Unfortunately, her brother had a hole in his pocket and lost the silver dollar.

While in Astoria, we also stopped by Astor's Column. We bought small glider airplanes, and climbed the 164 steps to the top. We flew our gliders and enjoyed the view.Interesting fact I learned from reading the brochure.."The Astoria Column is the final, crowning monument in a series of 12 historical markers erected in the early 1900s between St. Paul, Minnesota and Astoria, Oregon." Now I get to figure out what the other monuments are....and where in St. Paul this series begins :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bocce Ball and Bonfires

Another fun thing we like doing on the beach is play Bocce Ball. It has been pretty fun because everyone can play. Look at this fun Grandpa playing with almost all of his grandchildren! Actually, we have been playing throughout the week.First someone throws the little white ball.
Then each player tries to get their Bocce Ball the closest to that little white ball. Simple right? It is crazy how far a Bocce Ball can roll in the sand! For this particular game, Andrew teamed with Grandpa Dan. They won!

The evenings on the beach are starry, beautiful and peaceful with the sound of rolling waves in the background. Mix in a campfire, S'mores and a fun family and you have a good time! This was our third beach fire this year. We roasted marshmallows, ate S'mores and told circle stories. Circle stories are a fun group story telling activity where each person makes up one sentence of the story. We take turns adding each sentence while sitting in a circle. So basically ANYTHING can happen in these stories. Our first story was about a girl named Emily. It kind-of turned into a dream within a dream/Inception type event. The second story was about Joe and his birthday...somehow Ryan was able to include zombies into each story. Now that is a creative brother/cousin.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Big "E" and The Big Cheese!

Yesterday started back at the beach. We all met up near the ocean. Construction began for the day's sandcastles. Em found a fabulous way to leave her mark at the beach. Can you see the shape of her castle? It is a huge letter "E."
After a yummy lunch back at the house, we headed south on the 101 to our favorite cheese factory. Tillamook Cheese factory to be exact! It is interesting to see the huge blocks of cheese get cut into baby loaves and packaged and shipped out. We love this cheese. We have been known to fill our suitcases with baby loaves of this stuff-Tillamook Cheese is a lot cheaper and easier to find out here! Unfortunately, our timing was a little off this year and they were not working on the cheese at that moment.
But there was plenty of other things were still happening..such as the cheese sampling.We look forward to the Squeakie Cheese samples (aka cheese curds to all you Minnesotans) every year.Cheese cut up into little cubes and served on toothpicks is extra delicious.
We cannot forget the Tillamook ice cream. Which is one of our favorites that you CANNOT find back home. If only we could figure out a way to fill our suitcases with this stuff.We could not pass up the chance to drive the "Love Loaf" and get our picture taken.This year Grandpa Dan and Grandma Joanne showed us a beach that is near the cheese factory. See the huge rock mountain on the edge of the beach? We got to walk through it (via a tunnel) to the other side. There we found a rocky beach where we could look for agates. I got to hear a new beach sound. It was the loud crackly cool sound of the rocks hitting against each other as the waves wash over them. This beach has been added to my "must visit each year" list!
While in Tillamook, we picked up some chips and some Papa Murpheys.The perfect ingredients for game night at our house. BEWARE! These guys are sneaky Mafia players.