Brothers of the Sun Tour – Review

I had the pleasure of attending the very first concert at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis this past weekend. It was an amazing show. The show lasted 6.5 hours…that’s the longest show I’ve ever been to. There were 4 artists on the lineup…Jake Owen, Grace Potter, Tim McGraw, and Kenny Chesney.

I’ve seen the two headliners before but not the other two artists. Jake Owen started the show singing such hits as…’Alone with You’ and ‘Barefoot Bluejean Night’ . I enjoyed his portion of the show but felt like maybe he should have been the second act and let Grace Potter open up. She was okay but she is not the style of music that got with the rest of the crew. Her music seemed more like gospel to me but according to what I’ve read online she is a ‘rock’ singer. The bummer of her being there was she didn’t even sing her duet with Kenny…’You & Tequila’. That was a disappointment to me.

After a short break Tim McGraw opened his portion of the show with ‘Felt Good on my Lips’. He graced the stage with a pair of tight white jeans and a fitted white tshirt. He certainly is looking good at 45!! Tim put in his usual crowd-pleasing show with hits like ‘Just to See You Smile’, ‘Live Like You Were Dying’, and ‘I Miss Back When’. He started ‘Better Than I Used to Be’ with some inspiring words about becoming a better person. It made the song more emotional to me…but something about being at a live show always does that to me.

Then it was Kenny’s turn. He too put on a good show but I was slightly disappointed in having seen him this past winter and I felt like the show was much the same as the previous one. He is all energy however from the moment he jumped out of the stage in the middle of the crowd and rode his chair to the main stage. He sang hits like ‘Summertime’, ‘There Goes My Life’ , ‘Come Over’.

Of course at the end of the show Tim and Kenny sang a few songs together. They sang one of their own songs with their buddy and then they sang one that didn’t belong to either of them. This was the most disappointing part of the show to me as I had hoped they would sing more together and at the very least do an encore song but there would be no encore and I felt like I was left hanging. Some lucky fans (who had paid $400+ for tickets) got autographs while the band continued to play. There were lots of fans holding out hope that they would get to hear more but like myself were left hanging.

Overall it is a show I would highly recommend (and I’ve seen A LOT of shows)! It was well worth the money I paid for it for sure! And it was a good thing we had to wait 7 months for the show because drinks were very expensive and I needed that time to save up. Also, great job Target Field in hosting their first show and I think the acoustics were pretty good. I’m sure they learned lots from their first show.

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Summer Reading Incentives

We all know how important it is to keep our kids reading over the summer.  In our house we are making them stay up on their reading minutes that we require during the school year and thought I’d add a little incentive to get them reading even more.  So I took the idea that our area libraries use along with a reading incentive program Blake’s 2nd grade class used and spun it to work for us.  I gave the boys each a booklet to track their minutes when they read.  You can find the booklet that I created here:  Summer Reading Minutes.

We then needed to come up with some incentives.  I made a list of a few that I thought would work and then sat down with the boys and they helped me come up with some more.  I assigned every reward with a value of how many minutes they need to achieve it.  Once they redeem their minutes for a prize they are gone with the exception of one item on the list which is worth 5000 minutes..they continue to accrue to earn this prize!

Here is our list of rewards:

 

–          Trip to Moondogs Game                                                                       5000

–          Alone time with mom or dad                                                               500

–          20 minutes Wii time                                                                              300

–          DQ treat                                                                                                    250

–          Pick supper                                                                                              200

–          Donuts for breakfast                                                                              350

–          Friend over to play                                                                                 1500

–          Picnic with mom or dad                                                                        500

–          No chores for a day                                                                                200

–          Movie night – pick movie from Redbox                                            150

–          Date night                                                                                                1000

–          Ice cream treat at home                                                                        150

–          Stay up 15 minutes late                                                                         450

 

I hope this helps inspire other parents out there who are in need of a way to keep their kiddos reading this summer.  We have already doled out one prize to each of the boys and I think they are starting to ‘get it’ now!

 

Izzy is growing up…

I introduced you to Izzy in this post when she had first come home with us.  Since then she has been growing by leaps and bounds!  She currently weighs 26 lbs at 14 weeks.  She has turned into one of the best dogs we’ve had.  She is very smart and Mike has her already fetching up dummies and jumping off the dock to swim.  We took her camping and we were slightly worried that she would bark a lot but she was the calmest puppy I’ve ever seen!  She just layed around and hung out with us.  We even took her to the beach and she didn’t even mind when other dogs were walking past.

She has been moved into her outside kennel for good as of this week.  We are still working through some issues with her not wanting to go potty in her kennel because she is house trained so well.  We haven’t had an accident in the house in several weeks.  We are so happy to have added Izzy to our family!

Summer has arrived!

We have been super busy with summer type things…baseball, camping, swimming.  It has been a fun but usy summer so far!  The boys play bseball two nights a week at mostly the same time.  We have been trading off as to who goes to watch which kid.  Blake’s games go longer so we sometimes can catch a little of it after Avery is done.  The boys LOVE playing and it is so great to watch them improve as a team every week.

Here is a couple shots of Avery ‘sliding’…but it didn’t go so well.

And here’s one of blake playing first base…

This is Blake on our first camping trip of the year.  We have a box of legos that stay in the camper so they are like new toys every summer.

Avery out swimming.

Blake and his friend Tyler playing in the mud while camping.

Blake, Avery & Tyler playing Soccer Guys (a great box of toys from Kaskey Kids)

And THIS (ladies calm down) is my husband!  I believe this picture was just after he tried to flick me off for taking his picture:-)

Teacher Gifts – End of the Year

I know I have sadly neglected this poor blog and I have so many things that I wanted to write about.  I am hoping that summer will allow me to catch up but not counting on it.  I’ll do my best.

Since today is officially the first day of summer I thought I’d share the gifts we gave the teachers for the summer.  You saw this post with the spa themed gift for teacher appreciation week.  So for the end of the year I thought I’d give them gifts that had a summer theme.

I created these pretty bookmarks from this blog post I found on Pinterest.  It used some of my sewing skills that I don’t get to use often and I also got to make some of my favorite fabric flowers!

Then I created a Sweet and Spicy BBQ rub for grilling from a recipe that I found in a magazine.  I put it in a goodie bag with a label with instructions and tied it with a ribbon.  I hope that was good because I didn’t try any of it!

We added one of those glasses with a straw that you can pop in the freezer and finally an A&W with a label saying ‘You are A&Wesome!’

Then to tie it all together I added a little note in a thank you card that said ‘May you have an A&Wesome summer filled with grilling, reading, and sipping by the pool!’  I hope they enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed making them!

 

RECIPE: Chocolate Chip Cookies

We all have a recipe that brings us back to our childhood and this is mine!  For those of you who grew up in New Richland you will remember the Quiram’s Bakery chocolate chip cookies.  I think this recipe tastes just like them and I LOVE them!  So I’m sharing them with you so you can get a little taste of nostalgia!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c white sugar

1 c brown sugar

10 T sweet cream butter, softened

10 T shortening (Crisco brand makes a difference!)

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 2/3 c flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 package mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place butter and shortening in the mixing bowl.

2.  Add both sugars and beat until smooth and creamy.

3. Add eggs one at a time and mix well.  Also add vanilla.

4.  Add flour, baking soda, and salt in small amounts and beat until incorporated.  Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are mixed in.

5.  Add chocolate chips and beat until they are all mixed in.

6.  Scoop dough onto pan leaving enough room for them to spread out.  I sometimes like to do small cookies so I just use my 1 T scoop.  If you want a larger cookie the 2 T scoops work well too.

7. Bake 8-10 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges but not too dark.  I bake them until they are just barely looking done.  Then I leave them sit on the cookie sheet for a minute because they will set up and are then easy to scoop off the pan.  Place on a cooling rack until they are cool enough to stack.

Just a note…try not to eat all the dough raw.  I have an issue with this and end up eating several cookies worth of dough!  ENJOY!!

Teacher Appreciation Gifts

It’s that time of year again when we need to say a huge THANK YOU to the teachers in our lives!  They mean so much to me as they take care of and teach my children every day.  I truly appreciate everything they do…so I like to show them that they are appreciated.

Here are the gifts that I put together for them:

I used this recipe for the body scrub.  I put it in a simple canning jar, tied a ribbon around it and made a cute little label.  I also put a label on the back with instructions on how to use it.

The foot scrub and hand soap were purchased from Bath & Body Works.

I added a little note that said ‘Pamper yourself…you deserve it!’  Something simple but I’m sure they’ll love them!  I know I would!

So don’t forget to get the teachers in your life a little something special…and don’t forget it is also daycare provider appreciation on Friday…this gift would work for them too!

Meet Izzy

We are in love!  Our new puppy, Izzy, joined our family just a week ago!  She is adorable, loveable, playful and sweet.  She loves to take naps, loves her belly rubbed, plays tug-o-war and so far seems very smart.  We are training her to ring a bell when she needs to go outside.  She started using it less than 24 hours after we brought her home.

We knew she was coming home but we got her sooner than we thought.  We wanted to surprise the kids so we told them we were going to look at a camper,  All the way there we kept waiting for them to say ‘this is the way to where the puppy is’ but it didn’t happen until we drove into the breeder’s driveway.  Blake took one look and knew that we were there to see the puppy.  Little did they know we were bringing her home.

Her name took us a long time to agree on.  Mike was dead set on naming her Nelli (short for Benelli which is the gun he shoots) but I wasn’t sold.  So we kept making lists for each other trying to find a name that all of us could agree on.  Nothing hit either of us as ‘the one’ for quite a while.  One day Mike mentioned Izzy and although it wasn’t a favorite for either of us we did like it.  We went back and forth until the drive over to get her.  I finally decided that if Nelli was what everyone else wanted then it could be Nelli.  However then Avery wasn’t sold on it either.  When we got out of the truck and started playing with her we decided Izzy it would be!

So Izzy it is and Izzy it will be.  We are so excited to have this new addition to our little family.  There is NOTHING cuter than a lab puppy.  Here are some pictures:

How can you not love that face??

RECIPE: Cheesecake

As you know I have previously been a part of two dessert businesses.  There were over 60 flavors of cheesecake on my menu at one point in time.  The way that was possible is that I have a base recipe for cheesecake and then add lots of different ingredients to it.  So I’m going to share with you my base recipe and tell you how to add to it and make MANY flavors to impress your friends and family!

The one thing that is different and fabulous about this cheesecake is the crust.  It is a short bread cookie crust!  After much experimenting it was the best crust that would hold together and not crumble while eating it.  A graham cracker crust works well but is kind of messy!

Cheesecake – Base Recipe

Shortbread Crust:

1/2 c (1 stick) butter, melted

1 c flour

1/3 c brown sugar

Cheesecake Batter:

3 – 8 oz packages of cream cheese

1 c sugar

1 c sour cream

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1. Add flour and brown sugar to melted butter.  Mix well.

2. Pat into the bottom of a cheesecake pan.  I use a pan with a removable bottom and it works great but a springform pan is a traditional cheesecake pan and that will work fine too!

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden brown. I put a pan under it because butter sometimes drips and then makes my smoke alarm go off!

3.  While crust is baking add cream cheese and sugar to mixing bowl.  Mix for a few minutes until it is very creamy and smooth.

4.  Add sour cream and vanilla.  Mix well.

5.  Add eggs one at a time, making sure they are well incorporated between additions.

6.  This is where you can add other ingredients.  First example I will give you is for lemon cheesecake.  Add the juice and zest of one lemon.  Mix well.

7.  Pour batter into pan on top of crust.  Bake in oven at 350 for 35-45 minutes.  I always check it after about 25 because depending on the ingredients you add you will need to adjust the baking time.  What you are looking for is that when you jiggle the pan you can only see a small circle of the batter still jiggling in the center.  It will continue to bake a small amount in the pan but not much.  What you do not want is to overbake it and then it will crack.

This is the lemon cheesecake after baking.  I also take a knife and run it round the side when it is still hot so it doesn’t stick as much.  Place it in the freezer until it is set.  I store it in the freezer until we want to eat it.  It will keep for quite a while depending on what you store it in but it will get freezer burned after a bit.

ENJOY!  I’ll be back to share with you some ideas of what other kids of cheesecake you can create with this base recipe!

The Experience

As you probably read last week in this post we put our beloved Abbi to sleep just a month after saying goodbye to Hunter.  It has been a tough month here in our house but one that we will get through together.

When we realized it was time to put Hunter to sleep I was working and Mike was home.  We waited until the kids were home from school so that they would be able to say goodbye to him.  It was hard to contain my emotion as I watched Mike drive out of the driveway for the final time with Hunter.  It was not easy to know what was going to happen but tried to be strong for my boys who were devastated.  It helped to have a book that my dear friend, Naomi (thank you Naomi!), gave me to read them.  It is called Dog Heaven and is a wonderful explanation of what it will be like when your beloved dog gets to heaven.  It really helped me to explain to the kids that Hunter would be happy and running and jumping again when he got there.  There was a lot of comfort in thinking about things that way.

This time with Abbi we had planned to put her to sleep last Friday but then the news that one of Mike’s good softball friends had lost his battle with ALS came and he did not feel up to laying his dog and good friend to rest on the same day.  Although I didn’t want to wait another week I let it be his decision as he is the only one who knows how much he can handle.

Friday morning came and Mike took Abbi for a walk at their favorite hunting lake because she loved it so much.  When he returned he told me that today was the day.  She now seemed to be in pain and that was not what we wanted for her at all!  We tried to figure out logistics as the only appt available was at 2 pm…the same time as the funeral he needed to be at.  I decided that it was best if one of us took her to spend her final moments although I wasn’t sure how I would make it through so I found a sub to sit with the daycare kids and took her to the appt myself.

Since we had made the decision I had been teary on and off.  When the time finally came I felt strong and ready to face the task head on.  I made it to the vets office without tearing up and even got into the office to check in without a tear.  It was when the vet tech came to the truck to help me get Abbi out that I could no longer hold back the tears.  I opened the tailgate and prompted her to get up and she tried but I think she was too weak to do it with one back leg that was not functional.  The tech told me she could carry me for her and I lost it.  Sad that my poor girl couldn’t get up on her own and was no longer what she once had been and also sad about the fate that she was about to meet.

I walked into the clinic behind the tech carrying my dog in tears and quite possibly sobbing.  I tried to hold it together as others were in the waiting room with their pets but it was impossible.  She took me to a room just down the short hallway where there was a blanket spread out on the floor for Abbi to lay on.  Not that it was all that comfortable for her but a very nice sentiment.  Then the tech told me she needed some paperwork signed and asked for my credit card to pay for the services.  If I had one suggestion I would tell them that they need to take care of that stuff before I bring my dog into the office.  Although I realize they need to be paid for the services it was wrong timing.

Anyway, she explained that the vet would come in and talk with me and give her a sedative.  Then that the shot would be administered.  All the while I am crying and sniffing the snot back into my nose.  Then she pet Abbi, said some kind words and was gone.  Soon after the vet came in, Dr Bethke, and started talking to me.  I hadn’t thought much of the name of the vet and had never met her before in the vet’s office as Mike handles that stuff but I recognized her immediately as a girl who had attended Kindergarten with me.  It is no surprise to me that she is a vet as she grew up on a farm and had lots of animals in 4-H and such.  I found myself wondering if she remembered me although my last name is no longer the same.

Once the vet came in she talked to me and explained the process, in more detail that I needed really.  She pet Abbi and talked to her as if she was her own dog.  I couldn’t help but notice the comment she made to Abbi about how thing she had gotten and wonder if she was judging me for letting her get to this point.  She then gave her the shot and me a box of Kleenex, said she would return in a bit when the medicine had worked its magic.  She returned a few minutes later and noticed that Abbi was not as calm as she had hoped (although I thought she was quite calm).  She gave us another few minutes which appeared to not have done any better.  She said she was going to give her another shot.  As she was petting Abbi, the dog licked her hand.  She asked if Abbi was hungry and left to get some treats.  She gave Abbi some treats which she seemed to enjoy.  After that the vet stayed with us.  She stroked Abbi and talked to her trying to calm her.  Apparently the meds have some kind of effects like a street drug because she made a comment about her having a good ‘dream’ while I watched my dog trip out and lick everything in sight.  Poor dog could not keep her tongue in her mouth and it was not the last memory I cared to have but it did make me chuckle among my tears.

After she was finally calm enough to shave her leg for the IV she gave her the medicine.  I bawled like a baby as I knew what was coming.  I noticed that she stopped breathing almost immediately and nearly lost it but saved that for the moment after the vet listened to her heart with her stethoscope and told me ‘she’s gone’.  I went into full ugly cry mode and couldn’t catch my breath.  I did a couple of those horrible snotty slurps that you get with the ugly cry.  I felt bad for the vet as I’m sure she’s seen it before but much like me had no idea what to say.  She just told me that I could have as long as I liked and if I cared to I could go out the back door so I didn’t have to face the lobby full of people again and then she left.

I gave Abbi one last hug and a good long look at her.  I couldn’t contain myself at all.  I later asked my husband how he made it through that without crying and he said he didn’t cry til he was out of the office.  There was NO way that was happening with me.  I coulndn’t even pull it together enough to walk out.  I cried all the way home and then lost it again when I got in the door.  I am so glad my mother-in-law was there to give me a hug because I sure needed it at that moment.

Although i know we did the absolute right thing by letting her go it is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and don’t ever want to experience that again!   I say that with the knowledge that we will have a new puppy in 4 weeks and that the time will come to do this again but I don’t think I’ll be the one taking her in.  I think I’ll take the offer that was made by Mike’s cousin to take her for us.  I think it is better that way for me at least.  I would prefer that my last image of the dog be a happier one.