Wednesday, August 31, 2011

MN State Fair 2011 Edition

We took Mia to the state fair twice last weekend - we had to get in our fix before we all head out of town for Labor day weekend (more on that to come!). We took advantage of my free lunch pass in as a UMN faculty/staff member on Friday and hit up the barns, visited the new baby lambs and piglets in the Miracle of Birth Center, grabbed a few of our fave snacks (french fries, gyro, chocolate shake, frozen cider, and a corn dog for Mia!), checked out the amateur wine competition, and just enjoyed the fair until it started getting busy and we high-tailed it out of there. We went back on Sunday for a longer session. We got in, grabbed a quick breakfast at Blue Moon Cafe, hit the barns we hadn't seen on Friday (Mia got to pet a bunny!),

strolled through most of the buildings, found Mia some Minnie Mouse ears (to almost complete her Halloween costume!), ate some more of our faves (cheese curds with 1919 root beer, turkey sandwich, more frozen cider - Mia and I found a new fave!, and Sweet Martha's and milk - of course!).

It was a good couple of trips, but now I'm at home avoiding the fair since the actual craziness surrounding it is only fun when you are also participating (not when you're just trying to get to work, which is right next door for me!).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Country Livin'

While "back home" for my parents' 50th birthday tiki party, we had our friends, Laura and Gabe, in town to help out with the festivities as well as to partake in some "country livin'" for the weekend. Laura lucked out by getting to come down Thursday night - just in time to catch The Band Perry at the Martin County Fair. In addition, because we had Mia along and my family does farm, we spent a good deal of time in the animal barns where she got a quick education on how to judge pigs, cows, and sheep from Dan's girlfriend, Kendra. They even got to guess how much a large bull weighed - and came very close to the correct weight - oh the excitement! Oh, and who could forget the goat trivia game we ran across in the 4-H exhibit building? Laura almost made us do all of the trivia questions - she was pretty excited.

After multiple claims of "country livin'" we decided we needed to start tweeting the fun. Here are some tweets to recap the #countrylivin weekend:

mandyinminneap: Heading to the red carpet...#countrylivin

laura7983: About to drink at a place called "Bar" #countrylivin (the aforementioned "red carpet," which does not have its official name anywhere outside or inside the bar, nor does it have red carpet any longer, but is still legally called the "Red Carpet Lounge" - we asked the bartender since we were the only ones in the bar that night!)

mandyinminneap: The hubby just got a hole in one! #countrylivin (True story!)

laura7983: Had an awesome time doing some #countrylivin with @mandyinminneap, @dwbraz, and @gabemortoncook this weekend!

mandyinminneap: #forgottotweet hitting a deer at 70 mph on I-90....#countrylivin (Unfortunately, also true - the Jeep is still in the shop, but thankfully neither David nor Stephen were hurt! And Mia wasn't in the vehicle!!)

There were many more examples of country livin' but they're so normal for those of us that grew up down there that we forget about how odd they seem to outsiders. Such as - not locking the car when it's at someone's house (I still do in town), cramming a couple of people into the back of the Xterra for a quick ride home post-party (it was just David and Gabe, so not that big of a deal!), walking with our golf bags down to the golf course (maybe a better example is all of the old people that constantly drive around in their golf carts?)... Maybe Laura has a few more?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tiki Party Success!

The proof is in the pictures! See for yourself - a fantastic time was had by all!

The tent!

Our lighting job inside the tent - two girls, one tall ladder, a little green curling ribbon, and a whole lot of gorilla tape!

The bars! Laura and I made 7 pans of bars in 2.5 hours! Blitz baking!

The guests of honor (my parents, on the left) and the hosts (my aunt and uncle, on the right).

Dan and Grandma Evie playing lawn Jenga. I think she won.

The s'mores station! Getting a good photo was a bit difficult, but it was a hit!

Because what party ISN'T fun with life-size photo heads?

A surprise from my parents' neighbors - what they will look like at 80...

The mai tais were making everyone a little goofy...

A late night of partying, but they look pretty happy, don't you think?

(Note: I had to steal a few pictures from other family members via Facebook to give you a full representation of the evening! Thanks Missy and Jan!)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tiki Par-tay!

So what do you do when BOTH of your parents turn 50 in the same month? Throw one big blow-out bash, evidently. And what do you do when they turn 50 in September, and they are both farmers, therefore going to be REALLY busy during their actual birthday month? You throw said big blow-out bash a month ahead of time. In August. And because they both grew up in the same small town area that they currently reside and work in, said party needs to be ENORMOUS, necessitating that the party be held at an appropriate location, in our case, my aunt and uncle's lake home. And because I can't have a party without a theme, we're making it a tiki party at the lake! This is convenient because we used to hold tiki parties in the summer at our house, so we have a few decorations stowed away that we can use. Other than that, though, we needed to come up with a party plan. The party will be held outside at the lake, however, we did rent a large tent in case of rain (weather outlook for the party at this point is a possible chance of isolated thunderstorms, but temps between 60 and 80, which would be perfect!).

Since we're dealing with a potentially large crowd of people, we had some of the food catered in by my good friend, Lacey of Lola's Larkspur Market in New Ulm, MN (look it up for lunch or supper if you ever head down to tour Schell's Brewery!). In an attempt to stay with the tiki theme, she's making pork satays with mango salsa and jerk chicken wings. Then we're supplementing the meat with various salsas and dips (tapenades, spinach artichoke, bruschetta, queso) for bread and chips. Luckily we have some wonderful family and friends that are helping out with some of those! Meanwhile, I was able to mix up one batch of green olive tapenade last night, and plan on making Kalamata olive and roasted red pepper batches tonight. For desserts, I'll be making a bunch of different bars and cut them to bite-size pieces. I had a grand scheme to try to do mini pineapple upside down cakes (altering this recipe a bit, using a mini muffin tin) and mini chocolate lava cakes (same goes, here), but they proved to be a little more tricky than I liked so I scrapped that idea. Lucky for my girl friends, they got to have the "failed" attempts at girls' night last night. So instead, we're doing Rice Krispie bars, Special K bars, cream cheese brownies, Kraft caramel bars, rocky road brownies, and key lime bars. Maybe this fudge that I've been wanting to try out, too. We'll see.

Additionally, we're making a s'mores station! I somewhat ridiculously excited about this. I saw this photo on Pinterest,

originally from a photographer's website, and fell in love! Since we couldn't find the right size/shape trough to hold the sterno cans, my little brother ended up making a 5 ft long holder out of wood, which will have circular cutouts that just fit the individual cans along the length. I then convinced him to spray paint it black (his response originally was "this isn't hgtv"). But I think it's going to work out great! I found little lime green plastic bowls to hold the graham crackers, marshmallows, and Hershey's bars, and will use a ceramic volcano cup to hold bamboo skewers for roasting the marshmallows. Pictures to come, I promise!

Most importantly, the beverages! We've got two kegs ordered because beer is always necessary, however we're also doing 2 cocktail punches. Mai tais (lots of rum!) and sea breezes (vodka, and cranberry and grapefruit juices). We're mixing these up by the gallon and serving them in plastic pitchers, which will stay cold in a tub of ice. We have enough pitchers that we can always have another gallon ready in the fridge to exchange out. I think this will be an easy way to serve the cocktails since having a staffed bar was simply not an option (but would be totally fun!).

We found the parents some retro tiki outfits after scouring the local mod/vintage/thrift shops. Dad got a shirt, and a beachcomber hat, which I'm sure he's super excited about, and mom got this dress, although it was a little too much of a mumu, so she chopped it up and made it into a tunic. Mia got a matching skirt out of the deal, so I guess I can't be too mad that she cut it up.

All in all, we're busy taking care of the last minute details. Thankfully our friends, Laura and Gabe, are coming down for the weekend to help out at the party (and then enjoy some lake time the rest of the weekend!). They can help keep the food and cocktails stocked and deal with any other details if we're busy with guests. T minus two days until we head home to start the official party prep! Here's hoping it goes off without a hitch!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kid nerd

My cousin Jessie found this mini pink plastic microscope for Mia when she was visiting us a few weeks ago. Yes, my child will be a science nerd, if I have anything to say about it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Family Fun

We've had a lot of family in town lately, so we were able to A) get out on a date for our 6 year anniversary (a brief stint at the uptown art fair, then Chino Latinos for supper, and Stella's rooftop for beers to end the evening - just like the cool kids, minus Jenny this year who was around for our anniversary last summer and we did almost the exact same thing, but earlier and with a baby!), B) mom and I made it to my brother, Stephen's, 9Tomorrows concert at the Loring Theater the night before as David graciously offered to stay home with Mia,

and C) spent a family fun day with David's folks on Sunday - exploring the childrens' museum,

enjoying the beautiful weather and some excellent pizza and ice cream at Punch and Grand Ol' Creamery, and even managing to tear out a few bushes in our front yard while Vicki and I watched Mia play with her water table. In among all of that, I taught the last quarter of the general microbiology course for undergrads at the U, got back some results from a big experiment that I submitted in April, and hopped back into research mode while I prepare to lose my only labmate this week as he's starting grad school himself this fall. It's been a whirlwind the last couple of weeks! In addition to all of the family fun, we were able to sneak down to meet Ryan and Emily's new baby girl, Jenna! So precious! Can't wait until she's big enough to play with Mia!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Cole "Camp" 2011

In lieu of an actual Cole camp this year (in which my mom's side of the family normally gets together for a long weekend in June every year), a few of us decided to get together in the Twin Cities. (Okay, Jessie really booked tix for her and her sons to come up and visit and then informed me and Niko and Missy that we were all getting together, right Jess?) It was great to have the girls around, and to see Jessie's boys - they're getting so big! Will is almost 4 and Huck is exactly Mia's age - now 19 months! If you remember, I mentioned that Jessie and I had Huck and Mia on the same day - in two separate states! It was pretty exciting. So it's always fun to get the two of them together to see how they get along. It was amazing to me, again, to see how much bigger Huck seems - he's not much taller, but he's a lot more dense. They seemed to get along fine, although Mia kept calling him baby (she's saying this A LOT lately - to all kids, not just babies). Huck can already say "please" and "thank you," which we'll have to start working on a little more with Mia (evidently we don't encourage this enough...). Because we moved the pack 'n play downstairs for Huck to sleep in, our stairs were left unguarded (normally we use a toy and the pack 'n play to block off the bottom of our stairs since we don't have a railing or wall on one side to easily put up a baby gate). This led to the kids wanting to play on the stairs all of the time (why is that?). In addition to watching the kids play - which we did a lot - we took them to the Como Zoo, David's fire station (Will LOVES firefighters and has been excited to see "Fireman David's" station!), played outside in the wading pool, water table, and sprinkler, made and ate homemade ice cream (Will kept asking when the ice cream would be done - we made it Saturday afternoon and he didn't get any until Sunday afternoon. He wanted some for breakfast, but we held him off with monkey bread!), shopping at my favorite thrift store (for a couple of hours - we came back loaded!), and (for the adults) stayed up late talking, playing Pandemic (I got Niko hooked!), trying out drinks for the parents' 50th birthday party (we've got a great BOOZY mai tai recipe!), and discussing plans for next year's Cole Camp. Ready for picture overload? And these are just the few that I took...