September 29, 2012

Carrie in Concert

I am a girl that loves all kinds of music which is awesome because I'm married to a guy that likes all kinds of music.  This week is a week of concerts.  Monday night, Justin & his dad went to see Rush at the Target Center for Dan's birthday.  They had a great time - Rush played for 3 hours and barely spoke a word.  This coming Monday, we are all going to see Dispatch, who I have loved since freshman year in high school - I will let you know next week how that concert is.

Thursday night, I went with my mother in law and my two sissies to see Carrie Underwood at the Target Center.  Hunter Hayes opened for her.  I only knew one of his songs, but apparently he is the Justin Bieber of country music.  The younger girls behind us at the show were screaming and near tears while he performed.

I thought Carrie was awesome.  Nicole & Rhonda are huge fans and have been to see her numerous times.  I saw her the year after she won American Idol at Wee Fest, but I was way in the back and couldn't see much.  She has an incredible voice.  The Pioneer Press compared her to Taylor Swift and said they were rivals.  I disagree with that completely.  Taylor Swift is a songwriter with a lot of personality.  Carrie Underwood is way more private with a TON of talent.  I have now seen both of them in concert and will say that both shows were great.  I just don't think it's right to even compare them.

Those are just a few videos I took from my phone (not good quality, but I was enjoying the show too much.)

She played her biggest hits as well as all my favorite from her newest CD.  She opened with Good Girl & closed with Blown Away.  Temporary Home made the cut, as well as Before He Cheats and Jesus Take the Wheel.

The pictures I have aren't too great either, but these 2 are from the Pioneer Press and they are GORGEOUS (

You can tell they spent some money on the stage and the large screens.  This is quite a change from where I saw her last - on a stage in the middle of a field with cowboy boots and a white dress on.

I had so much fun with the girls that evening and would do it again a hundred times.  I got to be with Nicole the first time she rode the light rail (plus she had all $2 bills.)  The local country radio station recorded my voice - I get so embarrassed for stuff like that.  It's probably starting to sound like a broken record, but I am really lucky.  I gained some awesome family members when I married Justin.  Here are my favorite photos with the ladies.

September 27, 2012

Moment of Gratitude

Every once in a while, I need to take a quick 10 minutes and list a few things that I'm grateful for.  It is awesome to have those little reminders.

1. As I stay a non-runner that likes to run sometimes, I need some inspiration.  Finding simple quotes that I can remember is the best to keep me moving.  This is one of my favorites.  I am very grateful for my new found love of moving my feet.

2.  I love this time of year in Minnesota.  The colors are ABSOLUTELY gorgeous.  My neighbors tree in her front yard is my favorite.  It is so tall so it always has the blue sky as it's backdrop.  I also love the other things that come with fall.  I love boots, sweaters, hot coffee making a come back, crock pots, football, apple orchards, pumpkin farms and a calendar with open weekends.  I am grateful for all of the things that come with this season.  Happy Autumn.

September 26, 2012

Bicycles, Beer & Autumn Sun

As soon as I give up on my fitness, it just so happens that I start exercising more than I ever have in my life.  Annika & I set out on quite an adventure yesterday.  I arrived at her apartment at 4:15 and we set out on a bicycle adventure around some of the most beautiful trails in the St. Paul/Minneapolis metro area.  We biked down Summit Ave and along the river to Minneapolis. We biked through the Bohemian Flats and Mill City Ruins Park.  We crossed the Stone Arch Bridge and enjoyed an Oktoberfest at Tugg's Tavern.  We headed back through the University of MN campus and along the other side of the river and then straight back home.  The map of our 19.07 mile ride is at the bottom of this post if you're interested.  The fall colors are absolutely gorgeous.

Here are my favorite photos from the ride:

Find more Bike Ride in St Paul, MN

September 24, 2012

Another 5k in the books

I RAN THE WHOLE TIME.  Seems silly, right?  Running 3 miles when you're 27 and somewhat active should be easy.  It is not for me.  I have never been a runner.  I have ankles that have been broken numerous times and knees that are double jointed and sometimes just don't like working... could have been playing hockey all those years and slamming into the boards.  My awesome sister (in-law) has recently started running and absolutely loves it.  She has worked her tail off, but is always so excited about her races.

I got my mom involved in the Couch to 5k plan and we had a blast this summer with our weekly run/walks.  It only made sense to finish off our summer with a 5k.  We found the Women Run the Cities 5k run/walk that took place yesterday 9/23.  It is a women's only race along the Mississippi River that benefits the Ann Bancroft Foundation.  There were 2700 participants between the 5k and the 10 mile run.  We had a team of 7 runners (although Katie got sick that morning, so we only ran with 6.)  My mom and 2 of her good friends and then myself and 2 of my good friends.  It was so fun doing it with a group and getting to celebrate afterwards, plus it really helped to keep me going throughout the race knowing that others were there watching and encouraging.

I ran with Annika (who is a crazy half-marathoner) and we had a blast.  We chatted for the first 2.5 miles and then she allowed me to quietly struggle through the final stretch.  It was so helpful to have her with me because it distracted me from checking my time or how far we had left to run.  We also passed the first few ladies to finish the 10 mile run and I was amazed at the speed of these women, not to mention, they didn't look like they were about to die from exhaustion.

One of the announcers at the awards ceremony reminded everyone, "It is not about coming in first, or in the middle of the pack, or at the end, but it's the gratification you receive from finishing a race that makes it all worth it."  She was so right.  It didn't bug me that I tied with Annika and another lady for 500th place in the race.  I was just happy that I finished it and ran the whole time.  Now, I have a time to beat which is an exciting challenge - 33:37 - average of 10:50/mile.  I wondered if I would finish this one and decide that running is not for me and be done... instead, I found myself searching for the next one and deciding who might be interested in running with me.  I'm still not sure if I will become a runner, but doing a few of these each year will be a fun active challenge that requires a little more ambition.

Here is the website for the event:

My 30 before 30 list can be updated now as well.  Not only did I "participate" in a 5k, I actually ran in one.  Thanks Holly, Mom, Annika, Julie, Carol & Brooke!  Brooke - when that baby comes, you & I will find a really fun run to do together.

September 17, 2012

Highway 61 - The North Shore

Minnesota's northeast border is located on the shores of Lake Superior, the largest of the great lakes.  I may be a little biased when I say this, but I think this is one of the most beautiful places in the world... at least the Midwest.  Highway 61 is about 140 miles from Duluth, MN to Grand Portage and the Canadian Border.  The sunrise over Lake Superior gets me every time.  Also, it is one of the few places where you can REALLY hear the Minnesota accent.

As a child, our family vacations never included any Disney resorts, no Smithsonian museums and definitely not Lady Liberty.  We always took our week long vacations in the summertime to the North Shore.  We camped with family friends, canoed in the Boundary Waters, hiked parts of the Superior Hiking Trail and whizzed down the alpine slide in Lutsen.  In the winter, we spent our weekends travelling to small towns in Minnesota for hockey tournaments or heading right back to Lutsen for some skiing.  As an adult, I do feel a little behind (that is the reason Disneyworld is on my 30 before 30 list), but I'm grateful that I have seen so much of the beauty that Minnesota has to offer.

My husband and I just got back from the Lutsen area where we celebrated our 4 year wedding anniversary.  We had the most beautiful weather and such a lovely week.  We stayed at Bluefin Bay Resort, which is one of our favorites.  Their website is Each room has it's own kitchen and balcony with a lake view so you can make your own breakfast and sit for hours just listening to the waves.  They also allow you to bring your dogs, so we were able to go on vacation with our whole family - Quincy & Lola were so excited.

Photo Credit

Once you leave the beautiful city of Duluth on Highway 61, make sure to take the scenic route (never the expressway) to Two Harbors.  You will see a little shop called Russ Kendall's on your left - they have AMAZING smoked salmon and many other things to choose from.  This is a must if you like fish.  Also, the New Scenic Cafe has a great lunch menu and it definitely worth the stop if you're hungry.

Two Harbors is a great little town if you want to do a little shopping and maybe get some ice cream.  The main street is off the lake a little, but if you head down to the lake, there is a nice little walk out to the lighthouse.  We usually pass right through Two Harbors unless we are extremely hungry.  We are usually way too excited to stop after just 30 minutes of driving.

Gooseberry Falls is one of the first state parks you will pass.  It's usually one of the busier parks, but it's beautiful.  If you're looking for something that is a little more quiet - keep heading north.

Palisade Head is a must for everyone.  It will be on the right side of the road with a small sign for the turn off.  It comes up pretty quick once you pass through Beaver Bay & Silver Bay.  The road that climbs up the hill is a little scary, but once you get to the top, you'll realize that it is worth it.  You will get breathtaking views of the shoreline each way because you are standing at the top of a cliff.  There isn't too much for hiking there because it's not very large, but it's a good time to get out of the car and stretch your legs and take in the views.

As you continue up Highway 61, I recommend spending some time at Temperance River.  There are 7 waterfalls you can see as you follow the river.  It is one of my favorite hikes on the North Shore.  We did this as kids quite often, so it isn't too difficult of a hike.  You will also get to the towns of Tofte, Schroeder & Lutsen which all provide some lakefront restaurants and places to stay.

As I said before, Bluefin Bay is one of our favorites and that is right in Tofte.  Lutsen is extremely popular as well because there is lots to do there during all 4 seasons.  The views are awesome even in the winter time and the condos are hillside ski in/ski out and really fun to stay at.  In the summer, we always try to sneak in the Alpine Slide and take the gondola up Moose Mountain to the Mountaintop Chalet.  We enjoyed a wonderful mimosa in the 75 degree weather on the deck this year.  The Oberg Mountain trail is near Tofte as well and it is also a beautiful hike (only about 2.5 miles.)

 The last stop that I usually make on Highway 61 is Grand Marais.  Sven & Ole's Pizza is a must.  If you are lucky enough to be there in the summer, you can stop at World's Best Donuts.  They have lots of awesome little shops & restaurants along their lakeshore.  The Ben Franklin is awesome.  It has everything you could ever need and usually has a pretty good deal on Minnesota made goodies.  Beth's Fudge also never disappoints.

Grand Marais is also where the Gunflint Trail begins.  The Gunflint Trail is a quiet drive that is about 60 miles long and will take you up into the hills and towards Canada.  The campgrounds on this trail are so peaceful and quiet with gorgeous lakes and awesome canoeing.  If you take the trail all the way to the end, you will find Gunflint Lake and the Gunflint Lodge.  Having lunch & a glass of wine on their patio is a great way to enjoy the peacefulness.  They recently put in a treetop zip line as well - we haven't done that yet, but will be making a reservation next time we head north.

My other favorite place is near Flour Lake campground and the Golden Eagle Lodge.  When you are driving up the trail, look for the Flour Lake turn off on the right, take that dirt road a few miles past Aspen Lake and the Flour Lake Campground and you will see a small sign on your left for Honeymoon Bluff.  It is about a .25 mile hike up a nice trail and when you get to the top, you will have a breathtaking view of Hungry Jack Lake and the surrounding lakes & wilderness.  Here are some photos, but I promise, they don't do it justice.

We had an absolute blast on our anniversary trip.  Taking a nice weekend at the end of each summer to just spend time together is a treasure for us and something that we will continue to do each year.  This is such a beautiful place to hike, camp and enjoy the outdoors.  

Left - September 2008 - Right - September 2012
"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit." - Edward Abbey