And Then There Were Only Two Days Left

Where did I leave off?  Regarding our house guests that is.  I believe it was Sunday night.  Yes it was.  So, we arrived home from our adventures in the cities to an empty house.  The girl Things were right behind us, returning from their retreat weekend.  None of us felt much like cooking so Poppi bought us dinner, thank you Poppi, you're the best!  We dined in our happy pants, on the sofa, watching Once Upon A Time and sharing stories from our weekends during the commercial breaks.  This was a rare treat.  Big Bowl, the game, was up next.  I can't even begin friends.  The hilariousness that ensued cannot be explained even with the most advanced vocabularies.  We were rolling on the floor in hysterics for much of the duel.  That is all I will say.  After everyone was tucked in for the night Thing 4 and Husband Jared returned from their travels and all was well in my world. 
The Things were granted a free day that Monday to spend with Nani and Aunt Theresa and I couldn't have been more grateful to not have to set an alarm.  Husband Jared was scheduled to fly out early that afternoon and the rest of the fam had a date with the apple orchard.  Aunt Theresa had never picked apples before, she was in for a treat!  Unexpectedly Husband Jared's trip was postponed and the eight of us were headed out for some fall fun together.  What a gift.  The first orchard was fresh out of you-pick apples.  Disappointed, we piled in our vehicles and took the scenic route for the next best option.  A sure thing at Emma Krumbee's. We roamed the trees looking for the very best Harrelson and Fireside apples we could find.  Our mouths already watering thinking of all the applesauce and apple desserts we would be making with our harvest. 
All the pretty girls!
Aunt Tree and warty pumpkin
Aunt Tree and the Things

My Things
Nani and the Things
After all our outdoor fun we took our apples home.  There they were washed and prepped for apple pie and apple sauce and we readied ourselves for rock climbing at the gym.  Thing 4 is a big fan and he had been wanting to show off his skills for Nani and Aunt Tree since they arrived.  We were finally able to make it for open climb and we all gave it a go.  Under Thing 4's instruction of course.  It was quite the work out.  Once I conquered my fear of heights I was able to make it up one of the easiest courses all while Thing 4 scaled the walls like spider man! 
We were able to capture photos of everyone in action with the exception of Nani, sneaky lady!  Thing 1 was working so she missed out on the fun and Husband Jared was running for his work out. 
Thing 3
 Thing 2
Thing 4
 Aunt Tree
Me, looking a little apprehensive
How we all felt after an hour and a half of climbing!
Off to family dinner.  We had worked up quite an appetite and that homemade apple sauce was calling our names.  Apple pie was made while dinner cooked away, Nani and Thing 4 played cribbage and then we feasted together.  Our last night was spent laughing around the table, sharing highs and lows of the day and the week and then of course we indulged in a friendly Just Dance competition. 
Thing 4 and Nani

Home made apple pie with vanilla ice-cream for dessert, delicious!
Fuel for the dance competition!

Godmother and Goddaughter busting a move!

Nani and Thing 1, not sure who won this battle but it was a good one for sure!
The night came to an end all too quickly and with an early departure for the airport in the morning hugs were given and goodbyes said before bed.  In typical fashion the Things begged for our guests to stay, "just one more day", and we all wished they could.  Our time had come to an end.  It was a week spent making the very best memories and I am so grateful.  Until next time, Minnesnowta awaits your return Nani and Aunt Tree!


Night and Day in the City in Pictures

Saturday we woke late, watched football, drank way too much coffee and then drove into the city.  Checked into our hotel in Minneapolis and then made our way to the other twin, St. Paul that is.  Grand Avenue was our destination for lunch at Brasa and man oh man was it scrumptious.  We craned our necks and looked at all the houses lining Summit Avenue, took in Como park and the Cathedral and all that St. Paul had to offer. 
Mom finally getting cash...for posterity's sake.

After lunch and strolling we were off to a concert, Rend Collective at University of Northwestern.  The three of us were volunteering at the Compassion table, Mom and Aunt Tree for the first time.  Aunt Tree was introduced to Compassion that night and what an experience it was.   Before the concert of course we had to indulge in a few selfies by the water.  What scenery we had.   
Selfie at the Compassion table.

The trees were starting to turn, so pretty.
Light show...beach ball to follow!
 Obligatory concert photo.
We dined late night style in the city, viewed the lights from Prohibition and slept on puffy hotel beds, giggling into the wee hours of the night.
The next morning began at Colossal Café, which really isn't so colossal at all.  Another Triple D suggestion and one that did not disappoint.  The apple, walnut, brie pancakes were amazing.  And as big as your face. 
Enjoying our coffee al fresco.
The not so "Colossal" Café
Much debating took place over the table that morning.  Where to go, what to do.  With the weather being so glorious we chose outside activities.  A walk around Mill City Ruins and the Stone Arch Bridge.  We could not have ordered a better day.  Sun shining, clouds sparse and the sky bluer than blue.  There was a charity event at the museum so we were even treated to live music while we explored.  The lock was in use and for the first time since living here I was able to see it in action.  Fascinating.  We were silly and tried to replicate Thing 1's senior photo shoot.  Then we tried to be all artsy and find letters in the metal and the bricks.  And then we decided we were  hungry and thirsty so we headed over to Surly brewery. We dabbled in corn hole, toasted to a great weekend together and soaked in more sunshine bliss before returning home to the Things.
Mighty Mississippi River

Nani and Aunt Tree...tourists

My guests were insistent upon having a photo of this vintage sign,
not too shabby from the car.

Selfie at the Ruins

Learned the rules and scoring of this Midwest classic
Recycled beer can art?
That's a wrap of our 24 hours plus in the city.  Good times people, good times.
The apple orchard, Just Dance tournament and goodbyes up next. 



A Mom and an Aunt in Minnesota...The First Few Days

Call it what you will but towards the end of summer, beginning of the school year I became a bit homesick.  Homesick for my Mom.  I know, I'm 36 years old.  Maybe it was the familiarity, maybe the known or the friction.  There was something I was needing and I begged for her to visit.  Lo and behold she obliged and with her came my Aunt Theresa.  I was beside myself giddy anticipating their visit.  Plans were made, tickets booked and then they were here. 
They arrived late in the evening on a Wednesday and Things 3 and 4 could not even wait, they insisted on accompanying me to the airport.  Where they danced on the concrete, made faces in the windows and took selfies on my phone while we waited not so patiently for our visitor's delayed flight.  Needless to say we were all about excited.  We brought them home, put them to bed and were up early the next morning to send the Things off to school.  Us ladies however sipped coffee and made plans for the day.  First, a hike around the bluffs in our neighborhood.  Polo was adamant.  He showed the prairie off, took them to drink fresh spring water and then panted all the way home.
And then another trip to the airport for us.  Husband Jared was returning from his business trip and we promised him lunch with the three of us.  Lucky man.  Off to Excelsior, a walk around Lake Minnetonka and lunch at one of our favorites, Lago Tacos.  Our guests had to try the walleye tacos.  Let me tell you there was plenty of oohing and aahing at our table.  Over the food that is.  And because sometimes we act like teenagers and need to take selfies everywhere we go be forewarned that this post will likely be chock full of them.  In their defense, they were on vacay and it needed to be documented.
Just look at that brilliantly blue sky

The four of us, all smiles
An after lunch coffee and treat while we walked along main street, yes please. 
Family dinner was originally scheduled for this night, with it being one of the only nights we were all going to be home together but alas plans changed.  As they often do in this house.  Husband Jared and Thing 4 were departing in the wee hours of the morning for a road trip to Michigan for football, there was training to attend, errands to run and one Thing working.  All that to say, we decided to divide and conquer.  Best choice.  We all reunited later in the evening where I informed the girl Things they were staying home from school the next day.  Win one for Mama.  We also were able to celebrate our sweet friend's birthday.  Finn blew his candles out over and over again in our kitchen to loud cheers from his family and ours.
Then we woke before the sun and Husband Jared and Thing 4 boarded the bus to Michigan for a weekend of football.  A momentous occasion to say the least.  This was the first team trip for Thing 4, where the entire team traveled together on a coach bus, stayed together in the hotel, participated in team meals and meetings and learned the ins and outs of traveling as an academy.  Eventful and memorable to say the least.

Love this boy of mine. 
I ran back into bed for an hour and then woke to snuggles and excited girls for our day together.  A nature walk, lunch and shopping were on the docket.  The sun was shining and I was so very grateful to be able to show off some Minnesota fall beauty to our visitors. 
Everyone but me, I love these ladies.

Fairy houses

Our tree hugger, look at those leaves behind her. 
We were greeted by frogs, snakes and other wildlife on our walk.  Nature indeed.  Then we ran home to pretty ourselves for lunch and shopping.  Edina Grill here we come. 

Godmother and Thing 3 bonding over a mini spa hand treatment at Lush, Thing 3's favorite.  Aunt Theresa treated us all to bath bombs and we laughed our way around 50th St. soaking in the time together.
What better way to end our girls' day then with everyone's favorite caffeinated treat, Sbux. 
Thank you Nani! 
Of course the day was not officially over, the girl Things were then on their way to a Crave retreat and us older girls were left to our own devices at  home for the weekend with no one but Polo requiring our attention.  What an unexpected treat.  We opted for a night in, playing cards, cooking dinner together, watching chick flicks and dancing of course.  I have no photos to show, as I always say, too busy being present.  Right?!
Moving on, Saturday was a big day as we were headed into the city for exploring, a concert and late night adventures.  What's a trip to the Twin Cities if you don't see both twins?  And with that I will end this too long of a post and share the girls' weekend in my next installment. 

Tried and True Recipes

A warm Autumn hello to you all.  Fall has arrived and with it apples and changing leaves and pumpkins.  Not necessarily my favorite season but I'm choosing to embrace the goodness here.  Blustery days that make cuddling with my favorite people a welcome option.  Leaves blowing to and fro and spreading their fiery colors everywhere.  Late sunrises and early sunsets.  Apple picking.  Apple harvest.  The list goes on and on, or at least it could.  I'm going to stop there and share two recipes that have fast become favorites here.  And because I am such an apt blogger I do not even have photos for you.  Well, I have one.  Don't judge.  Just make these for your people and thank me later. 

First up, Granola straight from Melissa Clark's Olive Oil Granola as published in
The New York Times

3 cups old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups raw pistachios, hulled
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup coconut chips
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a large bowl combine all ingredients.  Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.  Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool. 

* As a side note here, I have never added the cardamom because I never have it on hand.  I don't know if I'm missing out on a flavor explosion or not.  I have also used coconut chips or shredded coconut, your preference matters.  I always cut the sugar in half and it is still more than enough. With that said, you must use the good maple syrup, and when I say good, I mean the pure grade A or B, no additives, no fake sugars.  The real deal people.  And if you don't like pistachios or pumpkin seeds substitute your favorite nuts.  Almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, the options are endless!  Now, go make this and be satisfied.  Oh, and pour it over some Greek yogurt, you can thank me later!

Next we have apple sauce, nothing fancy, just plain old apple sauce from The Pioneer Woman, of course.  When Thing 2 tasted this she said, "it's like spooning fried apples (of the Cracker Barrel) into my mouth".  I think that meant she liked it.  Here goes.

6 pounds apples, cored, peeled and cut into slices
1 cup of apple juice or cider
j\Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Optional additions: nutmeg, maple syrup, allspice, butter

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes.  Carefully puree in a food processor or blender until smooth.  You might need to do this in two portions.  Store in the fridge. 

* Again, I always halve the sugar called for, it is still quite sweet.  For the liquid, I've only used pure apple juice, straight from the apples themselves, I would assume that you could substitute water here as well if you'd prefer.  Let me know if you try that.  I also halve the cinnamon called for, Husband Jared is not a fan of things cinnamon, allspice or nutmeg related.  The apples speak for themselves and not once has this recipe failed us. 



Surprise Thing 2!

As Thing 2's birthday was approaching the family got the run down on the party specifics.  She made it clear that she would like a surprise party.  Well, hello!  One doesn't get to plan their own surprise party so we made haste and Things 1 and 3 went into stealth mode.  A guest list was comprised, a theme decided on and the menu planned.  About two weeks later we were at Target and Thing 2 causally said, "Oh and I'd like these plates and decorations for my surprise party and a piñata!".  Ahem.  Well original plan thwarted.  We began again, our fingers crossed that she wasn't on to us.  There were RSVP's and babysitting plans arranged so she would be out of the house on the special day and then cake baking and decorating took place.  This house was in full party swing!  Because Thing 2 loves to dance and create with canvas those were first on the party agenda.  Husband Jared created a bracket for a friendly Just Dance tournament, I purchased canvases and paints for the attendees and a piñata was filled with chocolate treats.  We were ready.  And lo and behold when Thing 2 walked in the door from her babysitting job she was greeted with friends yelling surprise!  Sweet success!  Let the party begin!
Decorations courtesy of Thing 1, 3 and Husband Jared

Thing 1 having too much fun playing with the piñata!

D-group girls

More piñata fun, blind fold, the spin around and then have a go!


Just Dance show down!

Silly girls!

We ended the night with sparklers of course!

Ombre cake baked and decorated with love by Thing 3
With the surprise party come and gone it was now time to celebrate the birthday girl on her actual birth-day.  And that we did!  She made an early morning trip to Starbucks with the other Things and Husband Jared, this Mama picked her up for lunch and then as a family we celebrated her at dinner with presents and cards.  Then the Things were off to youth group and upon their return there was more cake, triple chocolate mousse to be exact, and words of love and more singing!  This cake was probably one of the more labor intensive cakes Thing 2 has requested.  One of Thing 2's favorite teachers had made this cake for their class and I only hope it lived up to the expectation.  Thing 2's day was full of celebration and good times.  A sweet sixteen to be remembered.
Birthday lunch.

Make a wish.