May 29, 2012

Flying Flags

Did you know that on Memorial Day each year the flag is raised to the top of the flagpole briskly at the beginning of the day and then lowered slowly to half-staff position until noon and then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day?  I thought that was interesting.  I have never paid attention to the time of day and the position of the flag.  The half-staff position remembers more than one million men & women who have gave their lives in service of their country.  When the flag is raised again at noon, it shows that the people living will not let their sacrifice be in vain.

I know a few people currently serving, plus countless people over the years and some family members of mine.  My uncle spent all of my childhood overseas and in Seattle.  It was always a treat when he came to visit and he always remembered to send postcards from faraway places.  I clearly remember being in elementary school and bringing a postcard from Singapore into show-and-tell.  My grandpa was always pretty tight lipped about his time in the army, but we do know that he was growing up in a time where it was inevitable that you would serve your country.  He enlisted and was able to choose his area of focus.  He was part of the Army Language School and went to Korea.  He learned some Mandarin Chinese and Korean.  When he passed away last summer, we spent lots of time looking through old photos of him and lots of army pictures were included in the pile (even a few where he is enjoying a quick cigarette and beer.)  This is one of my favorites:

I am so grateful for all the sacrifice so many people have made to protect our freedoms and I think Memorial Day is a great time to reflect on the past and be thankful for the liberties that we have as Americans.  It is one day out of 365 (366 this year) that I am thinking of all those who are currently serving our country or have at some point in their lives and appreciating the amount of bravery and courage they show each and every day.

"The thing about remembering is that you don't forget." - Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

May 24, 2012

Birthday Love

Birthdays are an awkward thing for someone who doesn't like too much attention.  I love my birthday, so it's not a weird psychological issue where I had a bad experience in the past.  I just don't like a group of coworkers standing around my desk singing Happy Birthday.  Everyone stares at you and you feel pressured to make some funny reaction.  I think people have finally figured me out and it feels amazing.

I woke up this morning to a few text messages from my best friends who aren't going to be in town this weekend.  My team at work made a cake for all the May birthdays and decorated my desk with a birthday theme, but no song and dance.  My boss gave Justin & me a $25 Caribou gift card which will be gone in a few days :)  My dad sent me a weather report from the day I was actually born since it's rainy and yucky out today.  My mom called right away to check on my plans for the day and wish me a Happy Birthday.  My husband bought me a hanging basket and the sweetest card ever.  I visited my two favorite dogs over my lunch and had a BEAUTIFUL bouquet of flowers waiting at my door from Anna & Aaron. I am SUCH a lucky girl.

We are celebrating a few birthdays tonight at Happy Hour with a few friends.  It will be low-key and I can look forward to laughing non-stop.  Justin & I are also doing a day drinking pub crawl down West Seventh on Saturday with whichever friends decide to tag along.  There are so many good patios/bars on West Seventh and it's so close to home.

All of this love has been so wonderful to be on the receiving end of.  I have had a crazy week dealing with some family things and have been trying to give as much love as I possibly can to some very special children.  I felt so tired last night after three days of chaos.  After this lovely morning, I feel so refreshed and I know that I have so much more to give now because everyone deserves to feel loved and appreciated.  Children pick up on so many things and it is so important to hug them and tell them every day how amazing and awesome they are.  I have the best family ever.  They are so supportive and loving and crazy.  My aunt is currently working towards sainthood, especially since she hasn't had one extra moment to become refreshed.  It's one of those weeks where I feel that my Grandma Hauer is pushing us all in a certain direction.

We all know she has her halo on and helps us out all the time.  I am nervous for the future, but confident in the love and abilities of my family.  Courage & bravery has been so important in the last few days and doing the right thing is not always easy.  I am forever in awe of the people surrounding me.  

This week I have a lot to cheers to.  Cheers to my mom & dad for raising me to appreciate.  Cheers to my brother for just being himself all the time - it's nice to have consistency.  Cheers to my husband for growing with me and buying me pink flowers that are going to look beautiful in my backyard.  Cheers to my in-laws who have been the BEST new family for me - having sisters is a blast, my nieces provide constant amusement & giggles and my other mother & father have taught me lots and shown me the same love they show their own children which makes me feel amazingly lucky.  Cheers to the rest of my family and all my friends for just being purely awesome.

Happy birthday to me :)  I am one lucky girl.

P.S. I now have exactly 3 years to complete everything else on my 30 before 30 list... uh oh.

May 21, 2012

Best Weekends = Calm Weekends

Everyone needs a break.  I have been travelling non-stop for the last few weekends.  I have completed half of my management course, worked full weeks, attended birthday gatherings and celebrated Mother's Day.  This last weekend had nothing on the schedule.

Friday night, Justin & I decided to take advantage of the slow day at the gym.  Justin has been doing P90X now for at least 6 months.  He completed the first version and got the 2nd for Christmas and just finished his latest round with that.  He looks amazing.  I decided that I need to catch up with his awesomeness.  He told me that he would provide me with some exercises and help support me and keep me motivated.  The first workout made me sore for 2 days.  It involved lots of lunges and core work.  This evening, 30 minutes of heart racing cardio is on the books.  I guess I'm excited.  After Friday evenings workout, we met Katie at Costello's after her first week with her new job.  She traveled to the Bay Area in California and was able to spend a few hours exploring the area as well as getting acquainted with her new job and coworkers.  She seemed happy to be home, but excited about her new venture.  I guess it helps that she will be spending some time in Hawaii during the next 18 months.

Saturday morning, we had Tyler's 2nd birthday party at Choo Choo Bob's.  This is the coolest store in the world for anyone that likes trains.  It was the perfect place for a birthday party.  Engineer Paul had story time that even included a few songs.  After the party, we had lunch on the patio at McGovern's with Maddie, Nicole, Mom & Dad G.

She loves getting her picture taken now.  It's quite entertaining.  After lunch, J & I hit up the farmer's market and got some salsa and Dahlia's for the front step.  We spent the afternoon catching up on housework and held a poker game in the garage in the early evening.  We had a great group of 9 people with us.  I even ended up winning money.  Apparently people can't figure out my poker game... I didn't know I had one, so maybe that's the secret.  We finished up the night at Schroeder's and had a slumber party with Katie & Annika.  

I made a good effort at helping them start their Sunday off right.  I didn't have champagne, but I provided fruit, toast (with Smooth Operator Peanut Butter) and coffee straight from my beloved Keurig.  Justin & I went and saw Dark Shadows with Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer.

The movie looked really good in all the previews we saw, but when it actually came down to it, the story was lacking something.  Tim Burton films are always fun and the characters were fun.  It had a great cast.  The music was AMAZINGLY done by Danny Elfman.  But, they needed more substance to make it worthwhile.  I don't think we'll be seeing this again unless it comes up for movie night sometime in the future.  The rest of our Sunday was spent lounging around and catching up on some DVR stuff that we had while it rained outside.  It was a beautiful way to spend the weekend.

This week is all about celebrating birthdays.  The only thing I'm a little weirded out about is what to do on Saturday.  I want to get all our friends together, but it needs to be something casual and informal.  It's a tad bit narcissistic to plan a birthday party for yourself.  Even if I try & plan something for my husband, it's still inviting my friends and it seems like my birthday party.  So, I'm going to try & get creative and keep it classy...

Cheers to birthdays, St. Paul Farmer's Market, friendly poker games (especially when I win), and my amazing husband - just because.

May 20, 2012

The Most Magical Place in Iowa

Image From This Website
If you've never been to Okoboji, IA and you live somewhere in the Midwest, you need to make a plan to head there this summer.  Iowa has never really sounded like a vacation destination to me.  I met my husband 7 years ago.  After hearing about this place the whole first summer that we dated, I knew I had to see it for myself.  We have been back at least 2 times a year since then.

It is only about 3 hours from the Twin Cities.  In the map above, you can see how it's laid out.  The lakes form a horseshoe shape and all the fun and attractions are in the middle of the lakes.  Everything is on the water.  This not a lively place September-May, but in the summertime, there is so much going on.  There is an amusement park, miniature golf, plenty of shopping and restaurants near or on the water front and even a museum & concert venue right in the middle of all the action.  4th of July is the best time to be there, but the resorts fill up quickly.  It's a fun place to spend a few days in the summer.

We just spent a weekend down in Okoboji celebrating Grandpa G's 80th birthday as well as Mother's Day. It was so beautiful and quiet down there, but the weather felt like summer.  We spent an afternoon having cocktails at the Barefoot Bar.  We had dinner on a patio with Justin's aunt & uncle at the Fisherman's Wharf (we had crab cakes - my first animal since April 1st).  We had such a nice time hanging out with family and just taking a weekend to be in one of our favorites place in the whole world.  Here a some photos of the quiet little town in the springtime (also, some of the family.)


Old Fashioned and Amazing

Please take a weekend and bring your family to this magical place.  Justin's family has so many stories and memories there and it has a very special place to his family, but it definitely has something for everyone.

May 17, 2012

Blending Nature & Culture

So, my father's company is expanding into the social media world.  I have been helping him get his business out there on Facebook & Twitter.  He created a website 5 years ago when he went out on his own, but this year it was time to step into the world of twenty-something professionals that navigate through social media sites quickly looking for new pictures and interesting articles.  He has already gotten a job from his website this year.  My ultimate goal is to get him some business through his free social media sites.  I have watched some online seminars and read articles on social media marketing.  It's a very interesting area to learn about and it is a fun project to do with my dad.  I'm learning more and more about his business.  Each site offers different ways to share information and a different group of people to reach.  I am so excited for him and happy that he's challenging himself to try something different.

Check him out here:
His website
His Facebook Page
Follow Him on Twitter

Landscape design is one of the coolest professions because it's different and creative and you get winters off.  It is taking nature and culture and blending them together.  It is definitely catered more towards people with some extra dollars, but there are smaller projects that can make a world of difference.  Haven't you heard of the term "curb appeal"?

Here are a few of my favorite photos from his new Facebook site:

courtesy of Hauer by Design LLC

Courtesy of Hauer by Design LLC
My dad loves talking about his projects and his knowledge in the field of horticulture.  If you have ever had a conversation with him, it is likely that some sort of plant reference was brought up.  My husband loves to call him for advice on when to fertilize and how short to cut his grass.  To be successful in landscape design, you have to be knowledgeable about plants, flowers, soils, irrigation, climates, structural designs and the simple task of making your client feel good about their outdoor space.  Everybody has a different idea of what they want their outdoor space to do for them.  Some people just want it to look good and others want an outdoor living space that their family can enjoy.

He did a plan for our front yard that I am so excited about and can't wait until the magic can happen.  It will be an expensive endeavor that includes ripping out our entire front yard and putting it back in a different order... YIKES.  The design he has looks amazing and it is going to completely change the way our house looks.

Hats off to my dad for being a successful small business owner in the great city of St. Paul that has an awesome specialty.  It will eventually allow him to spend all winter in Costa Rica.  Cheers to that.

May 10, 2012

Weekend in the Hot Arizona Sun

This past weekend, I checked another item off my 30 before 30 list. I spent a whole weekend with a group of girls that I didn't know too well. 

I have a small anxiety problem.  I love traveling, but I tend to have anxiety.  I know it seems really silly, but I turn things down sometimes because I'm worried that I'll be too worried and it will make me sick. So, while writing my list, I thought this would be a good thing to commit to and see what happens.  It turns out that around the same time, I was invited by a friend of mine, Kirsten, to go on a girl's trip with her friends.  I knew some of them fairly well, and others I had never met.  It was going to be a long weekend in Arizona.  

I booked my ticket and flew out on Thursday night with Leah, who I've known since freshman year at UMD.  We arrived in Arizona and I got a little sick on the plane, not sure if it was a little anxiety or if it was simply the turbulence.  We were greeted with lots of hugs and smiles.  We ended up having an absolute blast.  We stayed in a beautiful home.  Kirsten did a BRILLIANT job putting the whole trip together.  We drank by the pool, hiked a mountain and had a kick-ass Cinco de Mayo celebration - complete with lime-a-ritas, tacos and tequila shots.  We found the biggest lemon known to man and named it Kevin.  We had a few serious dance parties.  I lost at Jenga twice which was disgraceful.  We found a small boy's car bed in the basement and built it around Christina when she fell asleep on Saturday night.

I truly believe I left the weekend with a few new friends and better relationships with the ladies I already knew.  It's so hard to believe that these ladies were in college at the same time as me and had many of the same friends, yet our paths didn't cross until now.  Better late than never.  I am so happy that I went.  I had so much fun.  I am so grateful to Kirsten and her friends for including me in this adventure.  I wasn't the only rookie either which made things a little easier.  Laura & I had some common ground and caused a little trouble of our own on Saturday night.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the weekend:

Cheers to hot sun, Lime-A-Ritas, new friends, Justin Bieber, Eileen, Leroy Brown, mountain climbing and Young Homies.

Soundtrack to the weekend:

May 3, 2012

My Husband's Weekend Plan

This is an email my husband sent to his best friend, Jerry, who is currently living in Germany.  He is explaining his plans for this weekend since I will be leaving town to head to AZ for the weekend.

Subject: My 3 favorite things...

Steph flies out to Arizona tonight for a long weekend with friends and comes back late on Sunday. In that time I intend to enjoy my 3 favorite things:

1.     A brand new bottle of Glenlivet 18 – I received this $100 bottle of Scotch for helping a friend move. NICE!

2.     An awesome Little Caesar’s Pizza – nothing like cheap processed cheese and dough to make a guy feel good. Oh, and crazy bread. NICE!

3.     Last, but definitely not least, the Star Wars Trilogy. I have the original, un-reedited by stupid Lucas, first 3 on DVD and I plan to roll the whole thing on Saturday. This is back before it was called “A New Hope” and back when Han shot first. NICE!

So, that’s pretty much how I’ll be enjoying my time. That and a nice 3 hr workout on Sunday followed by yard work; but a guy should take some me time, you know? Don’t let Lucas’ reimagining of the greatest trilogy of all-time ruin your respect for the original story my friend.

Have a good weekend…and remember, the Force will be with you.