Monday, November 24, 2014

Foggy Weekend

This past weekend we took a little road trip for my niece's first birthday party, which was also a chance to see part of my birth family. Little Madison was surrounded by a lot of friends and family (and lots of kids!) and of course I documented it with pictures.

When we first arrived the guys were all in the basement watching the Gophers game, but eventually made it upstairs. They had the game on with the volume down, but were riveted by it none the less. See picture above and then scroll up to two pictures above that. Eyes on the game, boys. 

Obligatory bow on head shot.

My other niece, Rowan, with my sister in law, Tara

There was kind of a pink hunting gear type theme.
What the heck is going on?

At some point Darby came out to check out what was going on. Such a sweet dog. She/he (?) just stood at the gate quietly and checked everything out. Also, Darby has better hair/fur than me.

Alas, it was time to go... partly because it was just time, but also because we totally forgot to feed the cats before we left. With an hour and a half drive each way and a visit of a couple hours the cats were starving when we returned home. But before we left we had to get a few group pictures.


Tara, Rowen, and my birth brother, Derek

Me, Derek, my birth dad Leo, and my birth sister, Lindsey

Later that day I asked Riley what her favorite part of the party was. She told me it was when we were saying goodbye. I thought she had a good time so I wasn't sure why she was most excited about leaving the party. I asked her "how come?" and she shared it was because of all the hugging. She is just too cute.

Foggy ride home

Sunday morning, as we lounged around the house, Riley announced that we should go on a pirate hunt. It was even foggier than the day before so it made total sense that we needed to search out the pirates in our neighborhood. We bundled up (well, as much as we needed to since it was almost 50 degrees) and headed outside. 

It was eerily quiet and even Riley asked where all the people were. We got several blocks before we finally saw a car which was really weird. But then suddenly we saw all sorts of people and everyone seemed to be out with their dogs. 

It was at about this time that we really got into the pirate search and had to be careful of all these 'people' wandering the streets... and if a car approached Jesse and Riley would crouch down as if they were hiding. Riley was being quite imaginative and even stated that the pirates were responsible for making this world (because it was foggy?) and that the world was evil. Oh my.

These hedges belong to a neighbor that I remember living there when I was a kid. The yard is impeccable and Jesse is totally jealous that it's not our house. I've never talked to the guy, but as a kid I found him intimidating. Now, he seems pretty nice and will wave when we drive by.

Dirty snow can be interesting, no?

On the lookout for pirates.

Moments later, crouched down hiding from a possible oncoming pirate (aka car).

red oak

Thanks to Riley we started the day off with a nice walk and a little imagination. Actually, we ended the day with some imagination as well, I suppose, as we put up Christmas lights and wrote a letter to Santa.

We were already thinking of a kid's type tablet for her so hopefully that suffices instead of an actual computer. Also, letter sheets are books that she can practice writing in. I was a little surprised that was on there and that there weren't more items, but happy with her reserve.

We thought lights weren't going to happen this year, but with this little burst of warmer weather we decided to get them up. We are actually about to get a new railing on that second story deck so once that's finished, we hope to string the last bit of lights around it. I think it turned out pretty good for it being our first time putting up lights.

And when I say "our" first time putting up lights I mean "Jesse". That was clear, right?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Jesse's 40th Birthday

Jesse just turned the big 40 - a momentous and somewhat scary milestone. Jesse once shared that he had a hard time turning 30 so I wasn't so sure how he would feel about 40. Turns out he feels a little better about it (at least it's not 50 - yet), but he isn't relishing in all the glory that 40 brings (such as arthritis in the shoulder, back pains, etc). I wanted to do something special for this birthday to ease the transition and celebrate that he's made it this far, but here's the deal... he isn't a big deal kind of guy. When I asked him what he wanted, he basically asked for some t-shirts and a movie night (and not just any movie - he wanted to see Interstellar and even purchased tickets two weeks prior). 

I could do that.

I knew we had to do something more than a movie and t-shirts, but I knew not to throw a party. Although, Jesse's co-worker (who I also know) did a great job of implying that might be happening. Love that he did that, and then I played coy when he told me about it. But Jesse knows that I know him well enough not to do that. Maybe for his 50th?

I did think about giving him 40 different gifts, but that deemed to be too taxing on my brain (and my pocketbook). So I came up with a plan to go out Saturday for dinner followed by a movie while Riley spent the night at her grandparents. I had some gifts to give him that day, but was going to give him the big gift on his birthday, which was Tuesday. 

We sort of  stuck to this plan, but then started talking about a week prior to his birthday about revisiting purchasing a new vehicle. A little over a year ago we initially had this conversation, but it was right in the midst of me trying to adjust my work hours (and work from home). I knew I was going to have a cut in income and wasn't sure I wanted to take on a car payment (plus I would work from home and buying a new car wasn't really needed) so we abandoned our plans, but recently our second car started acting up again and it was a reminder that we needed to revisit the idea of having a more reliable second vehicle. We've been more mindful of our finances since our original conversation about a new car and can see a light at the end of the tunnel for preschool payments and a current car payment so we decided that this was something that we could seriously consider - and we could consider vehicles that I wasn't willing to originally consider because of price. It was very freeing to not be fretting as much about this (I'm the fretter and Jesse's more the dreamer).

So this led to us going car shopping on Saturday. No, actually it was supposed to be a comparison trip. No buying. After we dropped Riley off at her grandparents (oh, and after we gave Jesse a few T-shirts and a book Riley made) we had four destinations to explore. We wanted to compare the Nissan Frontier and the Toyota Tacoma. I won't go into too much detail, but I will say we both agreed that we liked the Toyota better (not really a surprise there), we got a kick out of the Nissan salesman calling Jesse 'Boss' multiple times, and in the end we bought a truck. 

So much for just looking.

We actually wanted the used red Toyota that was in pristine condition, but ended up with a slightly newer, but used, black truck with less miles, and more importantly with a way better warranty. We were really happy with the dealership we went to and were super impressed with their service - they even had live music (live music!). Jesse joked that he hoped he'd have to bring the truck in for repair some time since the service waiting area was super nice. 

Side note: The only thing I didn't like was multiple references that the truck was for Jesse. We didn't go in indicating that in anyway. Honestly, my first vehicle I drove in high school was my dad's three on the tree 1981 Chevy C10. I loved driving a truck so much that when I went to buy my first car it was a 5 speed 1991 Chevy S10. It was a little insulting (and sexist) that these references were being made even though Jesse will likely be the primary driver of this truck - they didn't know that. 

Anyhoo, this was not the birthday I had in plan, but Jesse was quite pleased. Me agreeing to this truck was far better than anything else I could have come up with so I'm glad this happened on a milestone birthday such as this one.

One of our original debates last year about a second vehicle was that Jesse wanted a truck, but I didn't want to pay the price. Jesse thought we could have a truck without a back seat and said if he ever needed to drive Riley somewhere he would put her in the front seat. I was not ok with this. So this time around we were able to consider trucks with a full back seat. Jesse still seemed to think that we would continue to only drive Riley in our Kia (therefore only needing one car seat), but I told him that I bet we'd get another car seat. He dismissed this, but the day after we brought the truck home Jesse ordered a second car seat.

And, I don't blame him. When Riley saw the truck she was so excited and kept telling us how 'cool' it was. We let her explore inside and she pointed out where her CD's would go. How could we not drive her someplace in the truck?

Jesse is not a fan of having his picture taken especially if I plan to put it on Instagram and Facebook, but agreed to one. He quietly stood next to the truck and said "let me know when you are about to take the picture", and when I was, I got this. Goofball.

Yeah, he was excited.

I actually had another gift in mind for him. I had Jesse's birthday off so my dad and I were going to go pick up a snow blower. My dad was instrumental in that he had a truck and was going to help haul it, but apparently that wasn't needed anymore. When we discovered that we were going to get snow Monday and Tuesday we moved the purchase up to Sunday morning before meeting my in laws for lunch (and to pick up Riley). My dad was still part of the process because of his knowledge about these things that I do not posses and because he wanted to use his veteran's discount to help with the price (he's a nice guy like that). Somehow I got Jesse over to my dad's without him having a clue why we were going.

And then I got him to the store without him figuring out what it might be that he was getting. He's resisted a snowblower for years (we used to have one, but it was always breaking down) and claims he likes shoveling, but admitted that (with the onset of arthritis in his shoulder) that it would probably be a smart choice. He was excited once again and even more so that he could haul the thing home in his own truck.

He hasn't actually gotten to use it yet because the big snow storm wasn't so big and was super wet so he just shoveled, but we are both looking forward to the relief it will provide in the upcoming months.

And finally, on Jesse's actual birthday (Tuesday) we did go out to dinner at World Street Kitchen. I first discovered them by going to their food truck when I worked downtown. They have since opened up a restaurant space and I've been meaning to go forever. We both loved our dinners and were even offered a free tofu yum yum bowl to take home. Happy Birthday from World Street Kitchen.

And like all good birthdays we are still celebrating this one as we have one more birthday lunch with my dad this weekend. I'm guessing that Jesse might think 40 isn't so bad after all.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Farm

This past weekend my dad asked me to drive out to his farm in Wisconsin with him. He was meeting a guy that he hopes will clean up some wood on the property. Before my dad purchased the property (in the '60's?) there were at least 10,000 trees planted. Over time those trees need thinning out so new growth can come up. There has been a logger working off and on since last year to clear out some of that wood (the bigger stuff). The guy we met this past weekend was going to do a little extra cleanup with the trees the logger didn't take (don't worry, there are still thousands and thousands of trees there).

While there I, of course, had to take some pictures. I wanted to capture so many details. I feel very sentimental about the farm these days. Perhaps it's because my dad talks about possibly selling it... or perhaps it's because my dad is getting older... and I know it's certainly because the farm reminds me of my brother every time I am out there. So many reminders of him there.

Renter's dog 'Thor'. Such a sweet and gentle dog.

My dad and husband teased me that morning about how many layers I had on, but I was grateful because it was a chilly day. We started a fire in the barn, and then tried to move as much as possible to keep warm. I was waiting for the sun to really come out, but that didn't really happen until the afternoon.

We cleaned up the barn while waiting for the wood guy. He'll cut and sell the wood to others and my dad will take a small cut. It helps my dad in the end so he doesn't have so much downed trees in his woods.

I wander around a bit too and decide to take pictures. Above is the old fire pit. It was huge. No fire pit needs to be that large, but it did come in handy. Our current renter didn't do a good job of mowing around it so it made my dad nervous that he would have fires there. He imagined the fire moving to the overgrown grass and into his woods. So in the end the pit was filled in and now looks like this.

Side of an ice house - I just found it interesting

Roof of the ice house

The renter is a bit of an outdoorsman/hunter, He just got a 10 point buck with a bow and was out duck hunting when we first got there. He's got about 6 boats and they all having a different purpose (duck hunting, boundary waters, river boat, fishing boat...). I had no idea that you needed so many different boats. #citygirl

On the back 40

When the wood guy showed up we hopped into the old beat up Jeep and drove through the woods so he could see what we might have for him. Since the loggers have also been in the woods some of our trails were extra cleaned out, but some were still quite overgrown. The loggers were also working on the back 40 so they hadn't cleared trails off yet. We had to back up when our path was blocked with downed trees so I didn't get to see one of my favorite parts of the farm. The farm has 140 acres and about 5 miles worth of trails running through it's woods.

After the wood guy left I convinced my dad to check out the area where the loggers have piled all the wood they have right now. A truck was there picking up a load to haul off. This logging company has had a few issues while working including two pretty big injuries and a big steel machine catching on fire. At least one of the injured needed to be flown out from our property so it's been a little crazy. Just hoping they finish up the rest of their work without anymore issues.

A lot of the poplar trees had that little flower like design in them. Makes me wonder why that is.

I wandered off on my own for a bit taking pictures, but didn't want to go too far as I was sure my dad had some real work he wanted us to do today.

My dad also rents out some of the land to be farmed. The guy has yet to harvest which was fine by me so I could get these pictures.

When I got back to the yard I found my dad talking with the renter who had returned from duck hunting so I carried on with my picture taking.

We brought the weed whacker to clean up areas like this, but the darn thing wouldn't start. I think I should plan a weekend in the spring to have my siblings out for a 100% day. We used to have these at my dad's house once a year. We would all gather and take care of a number of projects that he needed help with including a deep clean of his house. It was a great way to help my dad, and to connect as a family. It seems the farm could use this greatly.

Renter's duck hunting paraphernalia

Still standing

Cockle burr invasion

One of our other tasks for the day was to get this re-bar (and some other metal items) out of the woods so my dad could take them to the scrap yard. These are more remnants of my brother - things he left out here with the intention of using one day. 

A tree grew through this one so he had to saw it for us to move the re-bar.

I love moss. I think it's pretty and magical and makes me
feel like I am living in an old English village.

It was an easy farm day. I spent most of my time taking pictures, but did do a little work. My dad mentioned to the wood guy that he's thought about selling it, but was quite attached to it, so it gives me hope that he won't sell it anytime soon. When I got home, Jesse surprised me stating that maybe one day we would build a house out there. Part of me would love to live out there and the other part worries that I would be bored out of my mind.

Plus, I find the city comforting. Years ago, I would stay at the farm by myself and get so freaked out because I thought if I was attacked no one would be able to hear my screams. I know it may sound irrational, but that's what I felt. Now, I sort of get excited by the thought of having some beautiful space to photograph without house wires and houses on top of each other and such. For now, I am happy in my slightly outside the city home knowing that I have this place as a get away if I need it.