Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving, Christmas tree, and a movie...

This fall has been quite good in terms of weather so it seemed appropriate that it would start to finally snow on Thanksgiving. I know it's still technically fall, but this holiday seems more like a winter holiday to me. Last year was quite cold and there was already plenty of snow at this time. I'd rather do without it, to be honest, but it does seem pretty magical through the eyes of a 5 year old.

This year we spent Thanksgiving at my in-laws house along with a few other family members (my father in law's son, his fiance and her daughter). It was a nice mellow get together filled with good food, a game, and a bunch of HGTV.

Riley: Where are you in this picture, mom? Me: Um, I'm taking the picture. Then I remembered that I was in a picture, but it was taken with Amy's phone and not my camera. Guess, I need to make more of an effort to get in the picture.

South of us got a little more snow

The day after Thanksgiving, we headed out to Hansen Tree Farm to get our Christmas tree. I think this is our third year here and I anticipate it won't be our last. The trees are far more expensive than I ever thought I would pay for a tree, but there are a few reasons we come here:

1. It's probably the closest 'cut your own' tree farm to our house - time is valuable and we don't want to be driving far out of our way.

2. It's the whole 'cut your own' experience - something I grew up with at our own farm. It doesn't have the thrill of it also being hunting season (in Wisconsin) as it did when I was young, but that's probably for the best.

3. The staff has always been great - a well run establishment.

4. The syrup - this one may seem silly, but we bought a bottle of syrup the first year and fell in love with the bottle. It provided a clean pour with no drips so, while we refilled it over the course of the year, the cap started to come off which meant we had to go back for a new one.

5. They provide a saw, shake and bag your tree, and load it onto your car for you.

After we cut our tree down we headed into the gift store to browse and get our free hot dogs, Christmas sausage, hot chocolate, and hot cider. We watched a guy make wreaths and some other people carve ornaments out of wood and then we purchased our syrup and a glass ornament before heading outside again.

While outside Riley played in the 'log' cabin and then we sat around the fire. We were waiting for the hayride to start up again, but that didn't happen while we were there so we headed home.

Riley's been itching to decorate for Christmas so she was a little bummed when we told her we were going to let the tree settle a little. That was true, but also code for "you need to rest, kid". She doesn't nap very often these days, but she crashed on this day. Afterwards we got right to business.

Years ago, we got a tree that was just too big for our space and it seems that each year we correct for that a little more. This is certainly one of our smaller trees, but still a decent size so no complaints here.

This seems like a good place to stop, but I might as well mention that we went to see The Good Dinosaur. I liked it better than Jesse, but I will say that I think it was waaaaay more scary than it needed to be (do the writers not have kids?). I don't want to give it away, but Disney did something they do in far too many of their kid's movies and it's starting to piss me off. Riley enjoyed it, but did spend half the movie snuggled up tight to me. Anyway, proceed with caution especially if you have a sensitive kid.

Edit: I spent three hours sleeping in Riley's bed last night after she had a bad dream. Yup, this movie was too scary for her.

Edit #2: We decided to squeeze in one more holiday event this weekend and went to the Christkindlsmarkt in Excelsior. We'd never been before and almost missed this year if it hadn't been for a friend's Instagram post. Jesse feels like we need to give the Holidazzle market a couple more years to refine so it was nice to get to some Christmas market this year (I'm still going to try to convince him to go to Holidazzle - we'll see if I am successful or not).

It's been years since I've been to Excelsior, but I always loved the coziness of this town. It has a small town feel without feeling small town. Does that make sense? Anyhoo, Jesse loved it too, but the market wasn't as great as we were hoping. I think we missed most of the fun stuff (parade, visiting deer, etc), and one of the food places with German sausage and kraut was closed up. We checked out the Kinderworld area, but it just had some Christmas stuff jammed up against the far side of the tent soooo not sure what that was all about.

We went on the trolley ride, which wasn't much of a ride. We rode a short distance and then the trolley stopped while the kids got to have photo ops with Santa. Unfortunately, Riley wants nothing to do with Santa so this didn't appeal to her. Earlier Santa was walking around and got right in her face with his scratchy beard rubbing up against her cheek. He was pretty aggressive as far as Santa's go. She looked like she was counting the moments until life ended. We were also crammed into one seat so this is the best picture I was able to snap...

So, it wasn't anything special. We might try it next year, but will try to go on a different day when there are more activities. I do know that we will be back to Excelsior to try one of their many restaurants and wander down by the lake. We loved all the small businesses and as we walked back to our car Riley got super excited when she saw a bookstore so we stopped in and got a couple books.

And that concludes our holiday activities for the weekend.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Project 52 - Panorama - Week 47


I've had a panorama idea in my head for awhile, and finally decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, it was pretty cold out, but Riley was a willing model once I told her what it would look like in the end.

Lightroom and Photoshop have made it easy to merge photos into a panorama, but it took a little tweaking to get it just right. In the first one I was only able to capture three Riley's, but after changing some photo selections I was able to get all five Riley's in the second picture. I also changed the settings so the bottom is straight (although still at an angle) rather than curved. Not sure which one I like better, but it certainly gave me some ideas of how I might set this up differently.

For a better view click here

For a better view click here

Next time I'd love to try this along the North Shore or in a big open park... or on a set of swings! Or maybe I'll have Riley do a sequence of poses, like letters of her name or something. So many options and so much fun! Can't wait to try this one again.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The most outdated post ever

I started this post, uh, a long time ago... and then forgot about it. And then I remembered the post, added to it... and forgot about it again. At this point I should probably just trash it, but I'm pushing forward and posting it anyway.

  • The day after we got back from the North Shore (in September) I went with my dad to his farm. He wanted to clean up a little around the yard, and make sure the fire detectors and such were working. The renters he has are not the best in terms of keeping the place clean which is disappointing. Clothes were just thrown everywhere inside the house, toys all over the yard. I don't expect everyone to be super clean, but some of it I just don't get. The renter is really into hunting and apparently is working on getting a bear by 'bear baiting'. I'd never heard about this, but I guess you put out piles of sweet stuff to lure the bear and then you shoot him. Our renter has acquired a bunch of expired candy, breakfast bars, dough, and syrup. He has placed them in the shed, but some of the boxes are tipped over and a bunch are empty. It almost looks like a bear went through the boxes instead of a human. Anyway, I get that people hunt and I eat meat and all that, but something about this seems wrong. Maybe it's just me. I was just put off by it all.

Ugh, so I'm just put off by the mess at the farm and feel like it deserves better. I did get to see how the barn has been cleaned out (by my husband, dad, and some of my brothers) and it made me happy, but weirdly made me sad. This barn was partially built by my brother, Scott, (who died 7 years ago) and not seeing couches, and snow mobile gear bums me out a little. All that just reminds me of him.

My dad keeps mentioning that he's going to sell the farm and I don't know how much to fight him on this. I guess we'll see what happens, but for now I'm glad I can still go out there with my dad.

  • Last Saturday (haha - actually, weeks ago, but I can't remember how long ago), I had to work from 9 - 3 so Jesse and Riley went with my dad to his union picnic. My dad was hoping to see a couple guys, but due to some illnesses they weren't there. My dad's been retired for 25 years so the friends he sees at these events are starting to slim down quite a bit. Riley had fun bringing home free crap (thanks Wells Fargo for the tire gauges - just what my kid always wanted) and playing on the bouncy structures. Later that day I took my turn and brought Riley over to my dad's. His town was having a celebration (Medina Celebration Day) and we decided to check it out. Riley got some more bouncy house time, a train like ride, played on the playground, and most importantly (to her) was running up the big hill and then rolling down. I wish I would have recorded it because she couldn't seem to get the rolling down part and kept going side to side. She'd get up, change positions and try again. Took her forever to get down the hill, but she loved it. We stayed for the fireworks and she did great. For a kids who previously hated fireworks she didn't seem one bit bothered by these. She even begged to get closer even though we were right under them (my neck was killing me from looking up). Earlier in the evening the sky was an amazing color of pink, and purple, and blue. It was really fantastic to see.

Checking out the back of a police car

  • Apparently, I was also going to talk about our three sewer backups. I live such a fun life! So yeah, it backed up and the place that I trust couldn't come out so they suggested another place. They came out and seemed fair, but then it backed up two weeks later or so. I called them again and the owner was a total dick. I paid them some more money, but didn't feel good about it because the owner was a serious dick. Did I mention that? I have no patience for poor customer service. And then it backed up again and this time we just followed directions from my dad and all has been good since then. Anyway, avoid Ken's Sewer if you can.
  • Oh, and apparently I was also going to talk about the Tasting Room according to my notes in this post. While everyone else seems to be using Stitchfix to have someone pick out clothes specifically for them, I've decided to have someone pick out wine for me. This is a little more my speed. Basically, you fill out a few questions so they can determine your wine profile. Jesse and I decided to do it together which may have messed things up because while we both love red wine, I can only drink white (there is something in red that messes with me big time). After they determine your wine profile they send you 6 sample bottles which you drink and then rate. Based on that, they send you a case of wine. We got 8 bottles of red and 4 of white which was fine, but I wish there was more control in that first case. Each bottle averaged about $12 which is probably what we pay usually. We've since received our second case and I don't love or hate what they've sent us. Probably the biggest pain has been that we have to be here when they deliver the wine, but other than that it's nice to have wine brought to our door. I think we might try one more case because it's fun to explore, but all the wine they sell comes from Lot 18 so it's not like we can find a great new wine and then buy it at our local store. 
  • And finally, some random pictures I never posted before.
Fall walk - collecting leaves

Found 6 turkeys in our yard a few weeks back

And that's it. Nothing exciting, but glad to be all caught up so I can now focus on all the holiday posts to come!