Monday, June 27, 2011

Mailbox Monday: Week 1

I met "D" many years ago after she started working at the Tech College, where I also worked. She was in Marketing, I was in Information Technology.

I remember at work or when we were out and about having people ask if we were sisters. :-)

She took me on my "first" bike ride (I had been on a Honda Goldwing a couple times before, but a sportbike is a very different experience!). I think we ended up riding through Lino Lakes a bit, and I guess I'm not really sure where else we went. I know we went through the country - and it was great! We rode so fast and while beforehand I thought I might be nervous, I wasn't. By the time our ride ended, I was hooked.

At the time I was living in an apartment with "T". When we came in after the ride, she teased that I was going to go out and buy a bike. I guess she was right because within a month or two I had completed my Motorcycle Safety Training, tested (and passed!) my endorsement test a.k.a. motorcycle license, AND bought a motorcycle.

"D" also played a big part in my current life...she introduced me to my husband! They had met at an open house for a local bike shop - before I met "D" I believe(?). They became friends and hung out here and there. As our friendship grew she thought that "S" and I should meet. The first attempt didn't work out on his end (I believe he had a work party) but eventually we did meet (that story is for another post).

I was honored to have "D" by my side as I married "S". And I was honored to be a part of her special day a year later, as she married "J".

We've drifted apart over the last few years; moving far away from everyone, and having a couple kids can have that effect, but deep down our friendship is there waiting to reconnect. Now that the kids are getting a bit older (4 and almost 3) things seem to be getting easier, and I am finally (but slowly) learning how to live again.  :-)

Thank you "D" for your friendship and being a part of my life!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sometimes I Wish I Didn't Care So Much

During lunch today, after the kids were done and had run off to play, my husband asked if there was anything he could do to help out today. Wednesday is a 'big day' for me, so I have been doing a few projects around the house, mainly organizing and cleaning. The house is kept up fairly decent from day to day, but toy overload was setting in, so it was time for rotation, and the basement has been in a bit of disarray lately. Anyways...I jokingly asked my husband if he could plan out menus for the next few weeks (I plan out breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as snack for daycare days - makes life sooo much easier!). He said sure, and rattled off "mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese..."  I laughed and added in "fish sticks".

Then I said "Sometimes I wish I didn't care so much". He nodded in agreement. I replied "except that I care too much about you and the kids..."

It is such a struggle sometimes. It would be so easy to buy convenience items and I know everyone would eat them. Just think of all the extra time I would have! Planning menus would take no time at all. I wouldn't have to plan around what fresh ingredients to incorporate into multiple meals, or what I need to prepare ahead of time to ensure meals can be served at meal time, etc... But, I'm too far in now to go back. Plus, I love that we eat healthy and that my children are learning healthy eating habits. And, I do love to cook and bake.

I also wish I didn't care so much about taking care of my house. It's rare that I do a thorough cleaning, but everyday is filled with dishes, laundry, cleaning/tidying up, etc...all the basics that most people do - although maybe it's not an everyday thing for others. I would love to let the dishes go for a few days sometimes, or let the laundry pile up, to tackle it all at once for a couple hours. But I can't. With running a business out of my home, I just don't feel comfortable letting things slide.

I don't mean to complain, I'm working on that, but I guess this is a place where I can do that sometimes, just because I can :-)  I'll continue to do the things I do, because I DO care, but little by little I will find ways to make them seem less tedious. I will find ways to fit in more of the things I truly love to do, little by little.

Sometimes I wish I didn't care so much...but I do.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Introduction to "Mailbox Mondays"

No other type of communication can ever compare to sending/receiving a handwritten letter in the mail.

I began corresponding through "snail mail" at a very young age. I think I was about 6 years old (first grade) when some friends from down the block moved to Missouri. I can't imagine that I was writing at that age (mom did you write letters for me?) but maybe it was shortly after that that we wrote letters back and forth. For years. They moved to Tennessee, and eventually back to Missouri, all the while we exchanged letters. We don't write any longer, but we occasionally update each other through email.

Then, at 12 years old (the summer just after 6th grade) I began corresponding with my pen-pal in Finland. I have a whole collection of letters locked away for safe keeping! As time went on, we began emailing each other, which was nice because of the length of time it takes for a letter to travel back and forth. And now with Facebook, communication is even easier. It's nice to keep up to date with each other at the touch of a button; it's tough living so far away from your best this helps a bit to not feel so far away :-)

But, I will never forget the days of running out to the mailbox in anticipation of a letter awaiting with my name on it. And, on the reverse side, I loved to drop a letter in the mailbox, or make that trip to the post office to get my letter or package weighed and stamped to go to Finland. Ok, I'll admit that even now amongst the bills and junk, I am always overly excited to receive a handwritten letter :-)

But, times are different now, and I realize that. I can't even remember the last time I sat down and hand wrote a letter. Makes me sad sometimes because it was something I always loved to do. It just seems so hard to find the time to sit down and write. Especially with my Finnish friend because our letters have almost always been pages, and pages long. Now it just seems easier to sit down and type - because I can type SO MUCH faster than I can write.

I've decided to change that. I have a ton of stationery, plenty of pens around the house, moments here and there that could be used for writing, and no excuses not to do it.

I plan to write a letter each week. I will drop a letter in the mailbox each Monday. My "Mailbox Monday" post will not contain the actual message that I hand write, or the recipients name, but a 'story' about them; how I met them/know them, an adventure we have shared, how they have impacted my life, etc...I haven't really decided yet, but the words will come as I write them and I'm thinking it will turn into one of those types of 'stories'.

If a tough week/end finds me on Monday with out a letter to drop in the mailbox, I won't beat myself up about it - this isn't another 'chore on my list''s a chance rekindle my love of letter writing; I imagine it to be relaxing and enjoyable.

On Monday I will have a letter going out to someone...and I'd love to keep up with this for as long as I can!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Bicycle Ride With My Family

Today we made a picnic lunch then packed the cooler - and our kids - in the bike trailer, and headed out for a bike ride. There is a new bicycle/walking trail that connects our city with the city just to the north of us. We knew where the trail started, but were not sure where it let out, or how long it was. My hubby attached his GPS to his handle bars, so we could measure distance.

It was gorgeous weather for a bike ride, around 70-75F (21-24C), with a nice breeze/wind. We rode through the countryside, farms, fields, etc...and eventually came to a wooden bridge. It was quite a long bridge. I could smell the wood as we biked across it; it reminded me of Finland. I took in every breath and enjoyed the sights (swamp, trees, the train tracks running parallel to it, etc...). The bridge ended, and we hit the asphalt trail again.

Soon we hit a road. The trail ended. The road straight ahead turned to gravel just ahead. So, we went to the right. As we stopped to decide where to go next, we were lucky to hear a train approaching! We parked our bikes so the kids could watch the train. I love these small towns where we can watch the trains 'close up'!

After the rails cleared, we crossed to see what was ahead. Turns out it went to the old highway, that now hooks up to the new highway. Hmmm...not a safe place to ride. So, we turned around and went the direction that would be taking a left off of the bike trail. There was no shoulder to the road, so we had to ride on the road and pull into the grass/gravel on the side when a car came by. We soon turned on a residential road, and followed it for a bit, chose another road to turn on, then searched for a place to stop and eat lunch.

We kept riding and found out that the road went to another busy road, with no sidewalk, so we decided to go back to a church that we had seen among the houses in the neighborhood. We pulled in and there was a police car. The officer was gearing up to go out on his bike. He greeted us and said 'hi' to the kids, then gave them Junior Police Officer badge stickers. My son was talkative and my daughter was shy. :-)

We found a nice tree shaded area and had our lunch. The kids played around a bit, then decided to head for home. The GPS battery was running low, so we made a note of our distance since it likely wouldn't last until we got home. The ride home seemed to go a bit quicker, but we were starting to feel it in our legs.

After we crossed the wooden bridge, we came across a turtle. We stopped to check it out and the kids loved it! We didn't want them to scare it, but we let them get down and get a closer look. I think it was looking for shade because it kept running under the bike trailer. I moved the trailer and then it would go running again - I don't think I've ever seen a turtle run so fast! Ok, so I haven't seen many turtles-maybe they all do that? We moved on and then made our way back home.

We ended up riding close to 15 miles (24km), and were out and about for nearly 3 1/2 hours. With A LOT of hills. I should call myself lucky that the bike trailer works better on my husband's bike...I don't know what the kids weigh, but I'm guessing close to 30 pounds each (13.6kg) - so that is 60 pounds (27.2kg) of kids, plus several pounds for the trailer, and our cooler (thankfully soft-sided), and the first aid kit, etc. This was a great test of his endurance! (I do take the kids out when my hubby isn't home - and it really makes me realize how hilly our city is! I always have in my mind the phrases "slow and steady wins the race" and "I think I can, I think I can...".)

All in all it was a GREAT day! I do have to say though, that I was a bit disappointed that the trail just dumped us out onto a fairly busy road with no sidewalks. I thought it would bring us closer into 'downtown'. Maybe the trail is not completed yet??? We decided next time that we'll just ride to the end, and turn around. It is a 2 mile ride to get to the starting point of this trail, and there is a great playground/park across the street from this point so maybe next time after we come back we will have a picnic at that park, play for a while, then enjoy the 2 mile ride home.

On a side note, my husband will be participating in the Mud Run MS Twin Cities on Saturday, September 10th. It is a 10k (6.2 mile) race through a military style obstacle course made of mud. Two of his cousins who live in Missouri recently participated in this, in their area. One of the cousins formed the team for the Mud Run in the Twin Cities, so my hubby and brother-in-law have joined his team. This will be the first time the guys here have participated in an event like this. I think our hilly bike rides with the kids is just the first step in preparing his body for this. If anyone is interested in joining in, or making a donation - please click here. There will be plenty of pictures and stories to tell after he completes this! My sister-in-law and I will definitely be on the sidelines with cameras in hand!

p.s. What better way to end a day full of bike riding excitement than with a rib eye steak for dinner?

I don't want a pickle...I just want to ride my motorsickle.

I spent Saturday afternoon with the kids, at my in-laws house. My hubby was done with work early so he came over and a while later I ran to Costco for milk and frozen berries. I ended up picking up a take-n-bake pizza to share for dinner, before taking the kids home. The kids wanted to ride home with daddy, so we left for home, a silent car for me, and a car full of conversation for him. Halfway home I got the urge to ride my motorcycle. Out of nowhere. I called my hubby to see if he thought there would be time for a quick ride when we got home (it was nearly 8:30pm). He said there would be.

Not more than 5 or 10 minutes after arriving home, my bike was running and ready to go. The kids got to stay up a bit late to see me off :-)  My son LOVES motorcycles, so I think it was exciting for him to see momma heading out for a ride. Would I remember how to ride? It's just like riding a bike. Once I hopped on, I was back on track.

Since I became pregnant with my daughter (in August, 2006) I've only ridden a couple times, maybe a few (literally 2 or 3 times). In 5 years. Sad. After a difficult delivery with my daughter, the seasons had changed by the time my body was healed enough to ride, and by then I was pregnant with my son, and the cycle continued. Then the crazy life of working full time, long commute, 2 young children, hubby with a varying work schedule, leaving my job to start my own business, etc... Excuses, excuses.

I used to love riding. I still do, but as you'll read in an upcoming post, I am trying to work things out for myself, and I think returning to my motorcycle is one way of doing this. Just one of many things.

I rode about 20 miles (32km) on Saturday. It. Was. Great! I love that I can ride down the road and take one turn to enter the countryside. Riding in a car can not compare at all to riding on the open road on a motorcycle. The fresh, cool air whooshed through my helmet...there is nothing I love more than the smell of fresh country air. I could see all that was around me; I felt free. Following the country curves was relaxing, and if not for the darkness - I would have ridden a hundred miles. I said 'hi' to a few deer in a field as I rode by, but knew they'd be out in full force in a short while, so I wrapped up my trip.

I was so thankful to take a spur-of-the-moment ride (and let my hubby put the kids to bed!) and look forward to the next one. Although, I'll plan to leave earlier so I will have more time to explore and enjoy nature before darkness falls. I found the spot where I'll try to capture the sunset, so that may be the goal of my next ride :-)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gingerbread Muffins

I found this recipe here and the kids and I decided to give it a try (you can also find the recipe below). If you've followed along the last few weeks, I'm sure you've noticed I enjoy making muffins :-)  I'll continue searching for new and interesting recipes to test and share.

These were DELICIOUS paired with a cold glass of milk. While baking, the house smelled wonderful; one of those smells you wish you could bottle up to enjoy later!

I normally freeze the extra muffins that aren't eaten right away, so I sometimes leave off toppings, but since this was my first attempt at this recipe - I made them as directed. The topping was very crumbly, but tasty. I stored the extras in a Tupperware container for a day, just to see how they'd hold up, and they were just as good the next day (so into the freezer they went). I'll try one in the next day or two to see how they are after freezing. If the topping doesn't survive, then I'll just make them without it next time, unless we are having guests and can eat them all fresh from the oven!

Gingerbread Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

2 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour  (5 1/2 dl)
1 tsp baking powder 
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 tsp dried (ground) ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup sugar  (3/4 dl)
pinch salt
1 cup applesauce  (2 1/4 dl)
1/2 cup molasses  (1 1/8 dl)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)  (1/2 dl)

1/4 cup oats (I used rolled oats)  (1/2 dl)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour  (1/2 dl)
4 tsp brown sugar
4 tsp vegetable oil (I used canola)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
tiny pinch salt

Mix all the ingredients for the topping together.

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Mix the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk the wet ingredients until combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ones in, mixing with a few swift strokes until combined. Scoop the batter into a greased muffin tin. The batter should come just short of the top. Generously sprinkle the topping onto the muffins, pressing it down gently. Bake for about 20 minutes-use the toothpick test. Cool in the muffin tin for a few minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Finnish Friday - Can I Really Wait Four More Years?

Photo taken (by me) at Salolampi (Bemidji, MN) in 2009

Before I left Finland last summer to journey back home, the plan was to return in 5 years, with my husband. We'd fly into Helsinki (instead of making the flight up to Kuopio, which I've done in the past) and my Finnish 'sister' (and her hubby?) would pick us up so we could tour Helsinki for a couple days before making the drive up to their home near Kuopio. I've been to northern Finland (Rovaniemi, in 2002) and eastern Finland (Joensuu, Savonlinna, 2002 and 2010) and areas in between (including Central Finland, which is 'home base'). In southern Finland I've toured the Helsinki it's time to get out of the airport and explore!

It has been nearly a year since I left for Finland...and it seems like just yesterday. In my mind I feel like I am supposed to be going back next month. It's such a strange feeling to describe, especially since I know there is not another journey awaiting me this summer. It almost feels like the same excitement I felt as I was preparing for my journey last year...except I'm not preparing for anything :-)

I miss the landscapes...I miss the food...I miss the adventures...I miss the shopping...I miss the produce department at the markets...I miss the language (even though I have A LOT to learn-watch for another post on this)...I miss the chocolate...I miss the fresh air...I miss the sauna...I miss the Horsma...I miss the wide variety of dairy products that I can't find here...I miss eating fresh strawberries...I miss new experiences in a 'new' land...I miss feeling content...I miss feeling 'at home'...I miss a lot of things...AND MOST OF ALL I MISS MY FAMILY and FRIENDS!

I don't know if I will be able to wait four more years. I am saving my pennies. I am hoping. Would next year be too soon? There is ONE thing I want to work on before I take my next adventure (besides saving up money!). The language. Maybe I will be ready in two years? Time will tell.

If I can travel to Finland before 2015, I would be so grateful. If not, I will be just as grateful for the opportunity to go when I do. And, maybe in 2020 it will be time to take the whole family! The kids will turn 12 and 13 that year. I can't WAIT to bring them with when they get older! But, if I go sooner than 2015, and plan to take the kids in 2020, does that mean that I will need to make at least one more trip in between???

Yes. :-)

If you cook...or don't cook...Check Out This Blog!

For the Love of Cooking

I came across this blog last month while searching online for a recipe...and now when I'm searching for something specific - I start there. For example, I searched this site for the Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins that we made today, and it is also where I found the Banana, Strawberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins recipe. I am looking forward to trying some of her bread recipes, main dishes, etc... Everything looks so delicious!

Thank you Pam for creating a well laid-out site with beautiful photos and most importantly fabulous recipes!

If you love to cook/bake and are looking for new recipe ideas, or if you are beginning to cook/bake from scratch more often and want some recipes that are fairly easy and family friendly, check out her site. Let me know what recipes you try; I will add them to my list!

Happy Cooking and Baking!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

The kids and I made these today, and they are amazing! I didn't take a picture, but I'm including the link to the recipe so you can see them here. I used Dannon All Natural Vanilla for the yogurt, and followed the recipe just as it was.

I filled the muffin cups just over half full (so they wouldn't be too big, or too small), and had extra batter so I filled up a mini-muffin tray (dozen) and popped those in the toaster oven for about 10 minutes, while the others baked in the big oven. They were moist and fluffy, just as the recipe said they would be. Sorry Betty Crocker, but I will be following this recipe from now on for my banana muffins!

I'm staring at my empty plate...trying not to go back for number three...