April 30, 2013

Chicago - The Usual Stuff

Our trip to Chicago this round included many of the quintessential Chicago tourist spots.  Nothing was busy because the weather wasn't great, so that made things really easy to get to and explore.  We had not visited Chicago in almost 7 years which is crazy since it's the closest big city and fairly inexpensive to fly to from here.  The trip came at a good time too because Justin's job changed the week before we left and I don't know that he'll be able to get much time off for the next couple of weeks/months.

We spent most of our time on the North side of the river this time.  We stayed right off Michigan Ave in a boutique hotel called the Whitehall Hotel.  It was foggy and rainy for most of our trip, but the sunshine came out for a little while when we were exploring Lincoln Park and the John Hancock tower.










And when you are done with all the touristy stuff, enjoy the people watching on Michigan Avenue with a nice hot cup of coffee or a nice cold cocktail.  We were lucky enough to see an entire group of Storm Troopers loading on to the bus (including Darth Vader without his helmet on.)  Also, we witnessed some weirdos learning to break dance from a bus stop sign... that might have been us, but still weirdos.



Helene in Between

April 29, 2013

Sunshine, Patios and Baseball

Spring has arrived.  Just kidding, it's supposed to snow again this week.  This weekend was BEAUTIFUL though.  The temperatures were in the 70's and everyone seemed happy and ready to play outside.  The walking trails by our house with packed with people just wanting to soak in the sun.  We took FULL advantage of the nice weather this weekend.

Friday evening, we had dinner with Justin's parents at Malone's Tavern in Maple Grove.  They have a fish taco wrap that is really good.  Also, I ordered a short cider and they gave me a tall.  Good things people.  We woke up Saturday and got out the bikes and searched for best breakfast places in the Twin Cities and there was one about 4 miles away, so we made our way there on our bikes.  It was so beautiful outside.  We ended up having a few friends over on Saturday afternoon/evening to grill and sit on the patio.  It felt so good to get all the furniture out and enjoy the weather.  Kelsey brought Griffin over and Lola was instantly in love. He followed her around the yard and usually that would annoy her, but she seems to be indifferent with him (which I translate to love.)
(clockwise)
1.  Lola showing Griff how to get after a busy bone.  He gave her space, but was very interested.
2.  We had to mail Stanley back on Saturday with a bunch of pictures and a letter describing his adventures.
3.  Lola sent Griffin a snap chat after he left.
4.  Seriously, he is so cute and he is the most laid back 12 week old puppy ever.
5.  Justin and the jam box - it was playing Dr. Dre and LL Cool J most of the evening.
6.  Our new breakfast restaurant that I'll write about soon - one step closer to completing my 30 before 30 list.

Sunday was a fun day.  Justin had to get fitted for a tux, so we did that first.  Then we met Brady & Kelsey at Cowboy Jack's and then headed to the Twins game.  I love Target Field and the Twins and everything about baseball.


We finished off our weekend with a little get together at Derrick & Lacey's.  Our friends were in town from Seattle for the weekend, so we got together and grilled, played beer Frisbee, ate cupcakes and took shots of whiskey.  I love the Cool Whip candle holders so shield them from the wind.


Can't wait to enjoy the sunshine again next weekend... but we need to get through this week and the possibility of more snow first.

April 26, 2013

Goodbye Winter


It is almost time.  I can feel the summer winds start to creep in.  My birthday is in less than a month.  Pretty soon, we will see tulips and green leaves.  The snow is melting quickly and we are about to have our warmest weekend in SEVEN MONTHS.  People are about ready to bust out in song.  So, today I happily say goodbye to Old Man Winter.


This winter was beautiful and not quite as cold as some in the past have been.  I went skiing on a big mountain for my first time and fell in love with Montana.  I searched endlessly for the winter carnival medallion.  I ran a 5k in single digit temps.  I helped teach my nieces how to skate.  I didn't get any cars towed for snow emergencies.  I danced and partied for the Red Bull Crashed Ice event.  I escaped to FL and Disneyworld for a mid winter warm up vacation (which I've never done.)  It was fun and I'm sure I'll be excited for snow again next year, but I'm over it for now.  

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We are at the end of April and it's finally time for spring to make an appearance.  We've been waiting for you.

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I am so excited I can barely contain myself.

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Since it's Friday and it's going to be 70 degrees this weekend and I am in a GREAT mood, I will give you a few songs for backthatazzup Friday.  

The first is my farewell song to Old Man Winter:


And my dedications to spring, the sun and warmer weather.  Welcome back into my life.



Now go visit Whitney and jam out on this lovely Friday.



This weekend = brunch + cocktails + farmer's market + patios + awesomeness.  Happy freaking Friday!

April 25, 2013

Lessons From my younger self

My birthday is in less than a month.  You would think I would have "grown up" at some point.  I've been married for almost 5 years which should define me as a grown up in itself, but still...


This happens.  Have I learned anything in my 28 years of existence?  I decided to pull out some of my older photos and see what I could find.  As I dumped out the 45 photos that came before digital cameras, I found some real gems.  So, here I share with you the lessons I learned young and have only perfected since then - including my totally normal selfies (as pictured above).

The Thumbs Up:


It fails every time doesn't ever fail me.  It is my go to move and has been for my whole life.  My other go to move is not brushing my hair.  You tell me, is it time for me to share my secrets on how to be so photogenic?  I can't even handle it.  I know there are some of you out there that have shared this same trait with me.  Some throw up a peace sign, some flip the bird, but 2 thumbs up is easy and family friendly.  I urge you to give it a shot.

Follow my lead (especially when dancing):


It's clear that I was born with dancing talents.  If I show you a dance move, just follow along.  If I'm telling you that a curtain is your best prop ever, just go with it.  Ask anyone that went to Arizona with us, they will tell you that it was the best performance all weekend.  I can't really explain it.  There is just something inside of me that points me in the right direction and I just move.

The Look No One Understands:


People want to take your picture all the time?  I know the pain/pressure.  I learned early that if you just make a face they don't understand, the photo quickly becomes an artistic hit because everyone wants to understand it.  If you do it over and over, they lay off on the pictures.  Maybe because you're ruining them, but I'm pretty sure it's because they are analyzing what is happening in the photo because it's just so breathtaking.  When I was young, I would look at you like you were speaking Russian.  As I grew up, if I looked away from the camera, people couldn't get enough.  Kind of like the Mona Lisa... is she smiling?

Also, I must add, the photo on the right IS from my wedding night.  Somehow I ended up with a cowboy hat and a camo vest in a Wendy's drive-thru.  That might be a story for a different day.

As I continue this journey to grow up and become classy, I have to continue to look back and learn from the awesomely awkward child I was.  I was pretty smart back then and have to remember to take my own advice.

Toby's Tails

April 24, 2013

Kings vs. Wild (and reasons I love Hockey)


Last night, we went to the MN Wild Game which you know if you follow me on twitter.  I found some Woodchuck cider, some mini donuts and settled into my seat and had a great time.  We had great seats and we went with one of Justin's oldest friends and his wife.  We don't get to see them often and it was so much fun.  Problem is - my husband is a die hard Kings fan ever since he was a young boy living in Southern California and Mike is a MN Wild fan.  Since I haven't really selected a hockey team that I'm going to obsess over, I supported my husband and wore one of his Kings hats that was a size or two too big.



The MN Wild ended up winning 2-1.  Let's be real, the Kings just won the Stanley Cup and they've already clenched their spot in the playoffs, so losing this game wasn't that big of a deal.  The game was fun to watch and the last few minutes got really exciting.

I've been a fan of hockey my whole life.  I played for 15 years and coached for another 10.  Professional hockey has never been my favorite and I could never watch it on TV, but going to the game reminded me why I love this sport.  It doesn't matter if you're on the 3rd level, people everywhere are yelling at specific players to back check, dump the puck and my all-time favorite:

Come on guys, let's put the biscuit in the basket.

Maybe that's just a Minnesota thing, but it's my favorite line and it brought back lots of memories of my dad yelling from the bench or the stands when I was a kid.

You also have the other end of the spectrum which is people just looking for violence in the game.  I get that fighting has become part of hockey, but when a mother behind is yelling "hit him while he's down" in front of her young kids, we have a problem.  Yes, it's a physical game.  I played with the boys the first half of my "all star" career until they got too big and hitting started and then they made me move to girls.  I love a good hit as much as the next person, but the fans have gotten a little too into the violence and less into the game itself.

The moments that always make me laugh in a hockey game is when there is a "misunderstanding."  That is a nice way of saying that two members on the same team slam into each other and look like complete clowns.  Maybe someone moved or they couldn't see the color of the jersey they were about to collide with, but I laugh out loud every single time.  This has been doctored (obviously), but I didn't get a video of the epic one I saw last night, so this will do.

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I will leave you with my favorite picture of the whole night:


I checked this morning and they are still friends.  This picture is the best.

Insta-Gratitude Week 17

Here is my weekly recap of the things I was so thankful for last week.  Also, if you hate waiting a week to see these, feel free to follow me on Instagram.  My user name is stephgregerson.


1.  Decorating cupcakes with my nieces and Flat Stanley.  Kenzy made me a cupcake with almost an entire bottle of green sprinkles on top because she knows green is my favorite color.
2.  Successfully completing a juice cleanse.  We went with just one day, but felt good all day.
3.  Justin has been traveling more for work and last week he was gone all week.  I kept myself busy, but it was nice to have him home on Friday night.
4.  Snow day last week meant cuddle time with the pups which I'm always thankful for.
5.  Joey Ryan and the Inks show with Caroline.  Love this girl.
6.  The boys from last weekend.  I was laughing so hard looking through our Chicago Sunday Funday pictures and this is one of my favorites.
7.  MN Wild vs. LA Kings game.  More to Come.

It was a great week filled with lots of friends, good music, a sports outing and a busy schedule at work.  I'm so excited for spring to come so all of the above can be done outside in the sun.  It's not too far away now.

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."  - Gilbert K. Chesterton

April 23, 2013

Good, Bad and Ugly - Dog Edition


Sorry I'm not sorry that I treat my dogs like children and talk about them any time anyone else brings up their human children.  They would love a chance to star on this blog, so today is the day.  The pups are going to share their good, bad and ugly.


My name is Quincy.  I am an 8 year old Schnauzer rescued from the Humane Society 7 years ago.  I have no idea why my first family couldn't keep me anymore, but I'm content now.

Good:
  • I'm the quiet one, unless the neighbor dogs are out - we like to catch up on the squirrel activity in the neighborhood when we can.
  • I play hard to get, so humans tend to become obsessed with me.
  • My beard is epic.  My parents continue to attempt to comb it, but I just stick it in the dirt outside and restyle it with my paws and I'm able to undo their efforts with ease.
Bad:
  • I look like an old man and I always have, but I recently started acting like one too.  In dog years, I'm 64 years old so I view this as my retirement.  
  • I have a serious infatuation with white fluffy dogs.  I've escaped numerous times just to chase them down the street.  A man is allowed a fantasy, right?
  • I was once called obese by my doctor so I had to go on a serious diet.
Ugly:
  • I once ate a Bible that was passed down through multiple generations.  Once I got the word of God inside my body, I stopped eating things (except for mom's sunglasses, paper towels and magazines with Britney Spears on the cover - those will never get old.)
  • I can't stand when my parents talk to me like a child.  I am the only dog I know that can do a good eye roll and I give it to them almost daily.
  • I am terrified of thunder and fireworks.  Don't even think of putting me in one of those thunder jackets.  They look ridiculous.  Just give me a treat and let me hide under the covers.  Also, don't tell the world, it will ruin my image.

I am Princess Lola.  I am a 7 year old Rat Terrier mixed with Chihuahua.  Some jack asses abandoned me after I had a litter of pups when I was just 2.  Thank goodness, a strange van picked me up and then brought me somewhere warm.  They gave me the stupid name of Rachel, even though I continuously told them that I was a princess.  Eventually, I was rescued by my parents and I couldn't be happier.  Plus, they gave me the name Lola, so I knew it was meant to be.

Good:
  • I save the world from squeakers.  I know how annoying they are, so I instantly rip them out of any toys so no one has to listen to them.  You are welcome, family.
  • I have a super cute whisper bark.  It's how I tell my secrets.
  • I am a lover and a cuddler.  I'm sure you've heard of a bromance and a romance, but I can provide a Lomance.
Bad:
  • Sometimes, I'm a picky eater.  When this happens, the only way to feed me is to make it a game and throw me the pieces of food.  I find it wildly entertaining.  Sorry, not sorry.
  • I can be a bit of a diva. When I need a new collar, I eat the gems off my current one.  That reminds me, I haven't gotten any new bling in a while.  I think it's time for some glitter in my life.
  • I might have spent some time in the slammer.  Long story short, I bit a runner - didn't break skin or anything, but I had just been rescued by my parents and let's just say that every little thing terrified me.   I feel bad that I did that.  I also feel bad that I got Pancreatitis.  My parents joke that I'm the million dollar dog.  I wish they'd spend money on new toys and treats, so I'll try and keep myself in line.
Ugly... no, there is no ugly about me.  I'll do GREAT instead:
  • I have those big eyes that people always say are attractive on women.  I know you're jealous.
  • I provide cheek to cheek support to my humans.  This involves me putting my face up against their face.  They pretend like it's invasive, but I know it makes them feel better after a long day.  I try and be so considerate.
  • I'm a better mice catcher than a cat.  I didn't care so much about the one that was in our house last year, but give me one in the backyard and I'll catch it every time.  Again, you're welcome.
Now that you know a little more about us, we're giving you the opportunity to donate a few dollars to the Animal Humane Society that so graciously rescued us and helped us find humans that were a good fit.  We are walking 5 miles on May 4th to raise money.  We really want to hit $500.00 and we have 11 days left.

Animal Humane Society: Walk for Animals 2013

Paws To Claws From California To Kansas

April 22, 2013

I Love Mail (and Coffee and Books)

Visit Jen and Mallory
I officially participated in my first swap of any kind.  I love nothing more than opening my mailbox and seeing things that don't include an invoice or an advertisement.  My grandma still sends me postcards in the mail once a month and they make my day.  I love sending birthday cards in the mail instead of posting on Facebook.  So, when I saw this, I decided to take the plunge and sign myself up.  So happy that I did.

ginandjuiceboxes.comI was paired up with Jessica at Gin and Juiceboxes.  We emailed back and forth and I stalked read her blog.  Not only does she keep herself extremely busy with the cutest little ones, but she was in the middle of preparing for a move to CA.  I'm a little jealous of the pictures of warm weather, but I love reading her blog.  I was also happy to find out that this was her first time doing this as well.  I was so excited when I received the package right before we left town to head to Chicago.  Perfect timing because it gave me a new book to start reading on the plane.

I absolutely love my new mug.  It reminds me of the owls we had all over our apartment in college, plus it's big, which means it goes to the front of the shelf.  I haven't gotten far enough in the book, but so far, it's really good.  I'm a huge fan of historic fiction.  The best part was how excited my husband was about this book because he's been wanting to read something by this author but hadn't gotten around to picking anything out yet.


Thanks to the two lovely ladies who put this together and a huge thanks to my swap partner.

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Weekend Recap

Winter is still here.  7 inches of snow on Friday.  My back and shoulders were a little sore from shoveling.  Friday afternoon involved happy hour with Brady & Kelsey.  Wine led to Vine and I made my first video.  Why JT?  Because Kels & I spent 2 hours watching music videos from the 90's and early 00's.  Amazing.  You can follow me on Vine with my twitter handle @stephgobviously and I promise you that there's a Paula Abdul video from Friday as well.



Saturday was a work day so I spent most of my day jealous of my husband who has at home cuddling the dogs and relaxing.  Saturday evening, we went to a show at the Cedar Cultural Center with Caroline.  Farewell Milwaukee was the first band and they were great.  Joey Ryan and the Inks was the other band and I loved every second of it.  I strongly urge you to check them out on youtube or on itunes.  Also, the Townhall Brewery has amazing sweet potato fries.



Sunday was another TREAT YOSELF day.  We decided after our Chicago trip that we wanted to do a one day juice cleanse and Sunday was our first open day with nothing planned.  We went with Suja juices that we picked up from Whole Foods.  They were expensive, but I was pretty impressed.  It was 6 juices in one day with as much water as you want.  I had a pretty bad headache from no coffee or caffeine all weekend, but I didn't feel hungry all day.  On top of treating myself to a detox day, I treated myself to a cucumber mask and a bath with a Lush sex bomb (seriously amazing.)  I finished off my evening with a lithe DVR catch up and a manicure (this won't last long.)

I wouldn't recommend the juice cleanse to everyone, but a sex bomb is something that everyone should experience.


Linking up with Sami for weekend shenanigans.  Cheers to hoping this week goes fast.


April 19, 2013

Emma the Dilemma



I always thought it was so funny that her name rhymes with dilemma.  She was there for me in all the dilemmas I had throughout college and even the years since then.  Emma is my college roommate.  We met smoking cigs on the benches outside the dorms on move in weekend freshman year of college.  We have been friends ever since.  We lived together for the rest of college.

We are pretty much opposites in most aspects of life.  She is from the burbs, I am a city girl born and raised.  She is a Yogi, I am a No-gi.  She is a really good singer, I am a great break dancer.  She lives a mostly gluten free life, I eat mostly gluten.  She is tall, I am short.  She lives in Minneapolis, I live in Saint Paul.  She is artistic, I pretend with crayons.

We do have a few things in common: Sweat Pants, awesome mixed tapes, Justin Timberlake, Kanye's Workout Plan, board games, karaoke and an obsession with Jack Bauer.

Today is her birthday.  I wish we were drinking cocktails together and serenading each other with love songs like we did almost every night in college, but I have to work tomorrow so we will postpone this celebration.

Emma - These videos are for you.  The first video is why I shouldn't be allowed to dance after too many beers... like ever.  The second video makes me smile - I mean, why wouldn't there be a big old dog in the bar?  We need to have another one of these nights soon, but maybe everyone around should be as drunk as me.  Love you.








Dancing with Myself

This morning has been just a whirlwind of emotions for me.

I woke up and turned on the news while getting ready.  So much going on over night.  A 19 year old?  I can't even get my brain to understand.  There is an entire US city on lock down this morning.  So scary.

After 30 minutes of CNN, I looked outside.  It snowed 7 inches over night.  My husband has been out of town, so I had to shovel the heaviest snow ever all by myself for 45 minutes just to get the car out of the driveway.  Thank you Kettle Bells for giving me the strength to not keel over lifting all of it.  I was then scolded by a high school boy that my whole sidewalk wasn't cleared yet.  Thank you asshole.  If I wasn't smaller than you, I might have intimidated you into shoveling the rest of my driveway for me.

I had to just laugh at the fact that it's illegal in MN to declare a snow emergency after April 10.  Cars were plowed in everywhere.  The roads weren't too slippery.  As I'm sitting at a stoplight, I spot a man walking his two little Pomeranian dogs.  The sidewalks weren't shoveled and they were barely making it through the snow, but they were rolling and playing with each other.  I laughed out loud.  Watching him try to keep them moving plus avoid getting tangled in their two leashes was hilarious.

It helped me realize something this morning.  There are some scary things happening this week in the world (and every week for that matter.)  How can people be so mad about the snow?  It's beautiful and I live in MN and I love the snow.  April is a weird time for it to happen, but at least I could leave my house this morning.  I got a killer workout in this morning by shoveling this ridiculously heavy wet snow.  Plus, the Mayor of Minneapolis declared today "Ski to Work Day."  Although 7 miles of skiing would be too far for me after my killer arm workout, I love the idea of it.

Minnesota - embrace the snow... or move somewhere else.  I'm choosing to just laugh about it and enjoy it and probably have my own dance party.  I apologize for the randomness.




Stay safe this weekend.  Give lots of hugs.  Try to schedule yourself a dance party - if you need more songs, check out other selections on the link up.


April 18, 2013

Wrigley Field - The Intimate Ball Park

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out to the crowd.
Buy me some beer & deep dish pizza.
I don't care if it ever gets warm,
Cuz I bought a new hat for the Cubs game.
If they don't win, no surprise.
For it's 1, 2, 3 runs today at Wrigley Field.

I wrote that myself while freezing my butt off at Wrigley.  I even called myself a lyrical genius which happens when I'm drinking Old Style beer.  

This was my first time visiting Wrigley Field.  It has easily made its way into my list of favorite ball parks.  It is the 2nd oldest ball park in the country after Fenway.  I love a little history.  We started our day with 40 degree weather and a tour of the park courtesy of Harry.  He was a die hard Cubs fan and knew everyone we passed at the stadium by name.  I should have taken a picture with him.  Hearing old baseball stories and watching the look in someone's eyes when they reminisce about games in the past, that's one of my favorite things.

My favorite part about the tour was actually being able to stand on the field.  We weren't able to do that at Fenway and it was a little surreal.







After a nice warm lunch, we met a man trying to sell a pair of tickets.  They were phenomenal seats and we got a steal for them.  The Cubs were playing my husband's favorite baseball team, the San Francisco Giants.  The Freak, Barry Zito and Matt Cain are a few of his favorite players.  

The cool thing about Wrigley being so old is the lack of VIP entrances for players,  If you stand by the Captain Morgan bar a few hours before game time, you can meet the visiting players when they get out of their cabs.  Our tour guide was nice enough to tell us that.  We didn't hang out there, but we happened to be walking through when none other than Pablo Sandoval arrived.  I was 3 feet from the Panda himself, but frozen so I wasn't able to take a picture... I just stared like a creep.

The game was cold.  Justin ordered himself a mai tai at the game and that really set the tone for the afternoon.  The Giants ended up losing in the bottom of the 9th in the 30 seconds that J went to the bathroom, so I made him put on the Cubs hat and we had shots of fireball.  Fireball shots at Wrigley?  Not quite, we did make it until the 5th in the cold, but then we headed to the bar.  





Wrigley Field is different from the others because you feel so close to the players.  It's a small ball park and it's old fashioned.  If I had to describe it in one word, I would say "intimate."  That seems like such a weird word, but it fits.


I can't wait to return to Wrigley when the sun is shining, the Mai Tai's are flowing and it's hot outside.  In the meantime, it's time to decide what our next new ballpark is going to be.  We have quite a few still on the list.  I'll happily take recommendations on the next one to knock off the list.

Go Cubs Go!