Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Roof

So I arrived home from work tonight about 8:45pm and found that Brian had decided to re-roof part of the garage. We had a lot of wind last week and it blew a bunch of shingles off the west side of the garage roof. Apparently (unknown to me), Brian spent a summer helping a buddy (Tyler) in North Pole roof his parents' house. So, Brian decided that he should fix this little problem. Turns out it was a BIG problem and he had to replace everything, including the plywood.
How handy is Brian?! What a catch! What a mess...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stairs 2009 (blah)

Brian was able to complete his stair project just in time for Mom's visit. We decided to paint the stairway and the computer room a molasses brown. I loved the color, but was afraid that it might be a little too dark. Thankfully, it works really well, especially because Brian decided to paint all the trim white (brilliant!). Here are some before and after shots for those who are interested.

Stairs before.
Stairs after. (*note* We still need to put the banister back up.)
Computer room before.
Computer room after.
We just have a few final touches (like curtains and wall hangings), but we are calling this project complete! Only one more room left to paint in the entire house- the kitchen.

Mom came to visit!

My Mom came to visit this week from Valdez, Alaska! We had such a nice time visiting and exploring central Iowa. When Mom visits she has a hard time sitting still. She loves to stay busy and if she isn't kept busy she does things like clean out the refrigerator or does laundry. Brian was working during most of her visit, but Mom and I managed to find enough to keep busy- besides cleaning the refrigerator.

We started her visit by spending a day shopping in Des Moines. We hit one of the bigger malls, had lunch at Olive Garden, and picked up bagels from Panera Bread and cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory on the way home. Yum!

We also spend a lot of time in my garden. I thought that gardening would be pretty straight forward, but really you need to have someone around to teach you things. So, I have this huge garden, but didn't own many tools. Mom took me down to the local hardware store and we picked out a hoe (embarrassingly enough, I didn't own one) and other necessary gardening tools. My favorite (recommended by Uncle Larry, king of all gardeners) is the stirrup hoe. This tool is going to save me a lot of time! In two days we weeded the strawberries, clean-up the asparagus and rhubarb, and planted tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatillos, sweet potatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, and squash. We already have beets, lettuce, garlic, onions, beans and snap peas that are all looking really good. Here's the lettuce. So, the entire garden is planted! Thanks, Mom- I couldn't have finished this without you!
On Monday we attended a Memorial Day parade in Humboldt, IA. When I was growing up my family was very involved in the Pomfret, CT Memorial Day parade. All of us who can't be in Connecticut on Memorial Day really miss it, so Mom and I decided we should really find a parade. Memorial Day doesn't seem to be as big a deal here in the midwest. The closest parade was in Humboldt, IA- about a 30-minute drive. Here's Mom waiting for the parade to start. And the parade begins! Here's the police cruiser leading the parade. Followed by the color guard....A limo (which we originally thought was empty, but we decided that it was carrying the guest speaker- a state senator)...And the high school marching band and color guard.
And that was the end of the parade. Still having plenty of time on our hands we followed the crowd to a lovely nearby park for a few speeches, including the reading of the Gettysburg Address and the playing of taps.All in all, a very fun (45 minute) project!
As I mentioned, Brian worked a lot of the time, but he was our designated griller once he got home from work. Here's Brian cooking up some wonderful Amana ribeye stakes.
The last day Mom was here Brian had the day off, so we spent the entire day antiquing in Des Moines. I managed to find some additional bowls for my collection and Mom found some silhouettes just like her grandmother had. While at one antique shop Mom pointed out his canister collection. Check out the canister for "GREASE" on the right hand side. How the times have changed!
Thanks for coming, Mom! We had such a great time!

Whatd' Ya Know?

I've gotten so far behind on our blogging- it has been a busy couple of weeks. Two weekends ago Brian and I attended a taping of Michael Feldman's What'd Ya Know? , a news quiz from Wisconsin Public Radio. The live taping was held at the Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines, seen below.
The inside of the theater was beautiful. We sat in the balcony and had a nice view of the stage. Here Brian is calling his parents, brother Jeff, and sister-in-law Laura, telling them where we were and that they should listen to the show. Here's me!Watching a radio show being taped is interesting. Brian thought it would be very formal, but it wasn't. In fact, it was a little goofy to watch. As you can see, the stage was anything but formal. We had lots of fun! Highlights of the show included a fantastic opera singer from Des Moines Opera House, a retired couple playing the piano who were a huge hit on YouTube, and the introduction of a HUGE pork tenderloin sandwich from Smitty's Tenderloin Shop in Des Moines. This picture is not great (we were pretty far way), but you can make out Michael, the owner of Smitty's, and the tenderloin sandwich. (Jeff- this is for you!) What fun!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Congratulations Louise and Ryan!

Louise and Ryan had their twin boys on May 14, 2009. Daniel Wayne was born at 4:59PM and weighed 4#13 oz. Victor Aaron was born at 5:00PM and weighed 5#8oz. Aren't they wonderful?! Everyone is doing very well, I'm pleased to announce!
Congratulations Louise and Ryan! Can't wait to meet them in person!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Out of control...

Check out my out of control hair in this photo...and Brian's isn't looking much better. might be time for a cut and some highlights. On that note, I think that I've *finally* found a new hairstylist in Fort Dodge. I've been though five since arriving in Iowa and finally got so frustrated that I had my hair dyed back to its natural color. Considering that I worked at a cosmetology college for 3 months this fall, you'd think that this process wouldn't have taken almost a year.

A Visit to Wisconsin

Last weekend Brian and I made a weekend trip east to visit his Aunt Sharon and Uncle Wayne. Brian's Grandma Baylor and her husband Steve were also there for the weekend and we saw Aunt Sue and Uncle Phil for brunch on Sunday before we headed home. We had such a nice visit! I haven't spent much time with Aunt Sharon and Uncle Wayne and we hadn't seen them since last summer, so visiting was a treat. Not only did we enjoy some excellent meals and conversations, but saw many of the Madison sites. The weather was a little wet, but we did manage to find some breaks in the clouds to get outside.
Aunt Sharon has the more incredible tulips in her front yard. I couldn't resist snapping some shots of them.
Some of the high points of the weekend included a tour of the University of Wisconsin and the beautiful State Capitol Building where we learned the badger is the Wisconsin state animal (who knew!). Brian acting like a goofball in the capitol building. Grandma and Steve outside of the capitol.

Aunt Sharon and Uncle Wayne. I'm wishing that the lighting was better in this photo...We also visited an incredible flowering arboretum and took a nice relaxing walk.
Thanks Aunt Sharon and Uncle Wayne for a great weekend!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Stories about Dawson

I've been meaning to blog more about our quirky dog Dawson. Sure, sure, we have plenty of cute pictures of our labs, but we don't write much about their personalities. Generally speaking, Mattie (our black lab) is the calm, smart, thoughtful dog. Dawson is our goofy, headstrong, loveable, pup. He actually reminds me of the chocolate lab we had briefly when I was a kid- Gus. What I remember most about Gus (I was only 4 or 5 years old when we had him) was that he would run right into me without slowing down if he was focused on sometime beyond where I was standing. It seems that this trait is found in many chocolates because Dawson does the same thing, plowing into me (never Brian) on a weekly basis. He always feels badly and whines when scolded, so you can't stay mad at him for very long.

Despite his sometimes silly personality, Dawson can be a very "proper" dog. While laying down, he always crosses his front paws. There was only one other lab that I knew who did this- my Uncle John's dog Rosie. I always think of my uncle and his dog when I see Dawson like this.
One way that Dawson has Mattie beat is in patience. Mattie will probably never master the art of balancing a dog bone on her nose (perhaps because I'm more afraid of losing a finger than anything), but Dawson will do anything to please. He also doesn't have the Yeah-right-You-want-me-to-balance-that-bone-on-my-nose-Not-going-to-happen attitude that Mattie does. He's so good at balancing treats on his nose that Brian is trying to take this trick to another level and get Dawson to balance a beer bottle on his head (which is surprisingly flat). As you can see, the dog is skeptical. This might be one trick that is a lost cause...
If nothing else, Dawson brings unending entertainment and happiness to our house. We (Brian) doesn't think that he'll amount to much as a bird dog, but I think we need to appreciate dogs (just like people) for the gifts they do have- even if those gifts are of the goofy variety.

Our first asparagus!

Brian and I picked our first piece of asparagus on Friday!Okay...maybe it was our second "harvesting." Brian picked the first piece while I was in Denver last weekend. Here's how the phone conversation went when Brian called to tell me the news. (We were checking the patch every day.) Just to give all of our readers a background, asparagus might be the only vegetable that Brian likes.

Brian: "Hey Hope?"
Me: "Hey Brian! What's up?"
Brian: "I think there's a piece of asparagus that needs to be picked."
Me: "Okay, go ahead a pick it."
Brian: "What do I do with it afterwards?"
Me: "I guess that you should cook and eat it."
Brian: "Shouldn't I wait for you?"
Me: "No worries...there will be plenty of others and this piece might be too big by the time I get home."
Brian: "Okay, I'll call you back. Bye."
Me: "Bye."

...2 minutes pass...

Brian: "Okay, Hope. I picked it. Now what?"
Me: "Well, I guess you should wash it, then maybe saute it in a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle it with sea salt."
Brian: "Okay, I'll call you back. Bye."
Me: "Bye."

...5 minutes pass...

Brian: "Okay, Hope, I cooked and ate it."
Me: "Oh good! How was it?"
Brian: "Really good, best asparagus I've ever had! But, I think that I missed a step."
Me: "Oh, what's that?"
Brian: "Well, I didn't wash it before I cooked it. Is that okay?"
Me: "I'm sure that's fine, but maybe we'll wash our next piece."
Brian: "Okay, that sounds good. I'll talk to you later. Bye."
Me: "Okay, bye."


Yup, this is the most excited I've EVER seen Brian over a vegetable...and it may be the first vegetable that he has prepared for himself while I was away. If that isn't blog worthy, I'm not sure what it. Nice work, Brian!

Weekend in Denver

Last weekend I made a quick trip to Denver to attend a "Hillsdale" baby shower for Louise. Louise and Ryan are due to have twin boys mid-June. The trip was lots of fun, as expected (after all, the Woods are very fun people)!

I flew in Friday night and Louise had already made reservations at P.F. Chang's (a very tasty Chinese restaurant that I've blogged about before). The next morning Louise and I headed north to the shower- hosted by one of our fellow Hillsdale College Republican Women- Marya DeGrow. It was so good to hang out with Hillsdale College (our Alma mater) gals. It has been a long time since I was able to make it to Denver to a Hillsdale event of one kind or another. I was so glad to be there! I didn't take many photos at the shower (go figure), but here is the hostess with her youngest daughter Elizabeth.And photo of Louise showing off a very cute baseball overall outfit (the Woods are huge Colorado Rockies fans).
Other highlights of my trip included:

A new recipe for skillet pizza from America's Test Kitchen. This recipe uses beer instead of yeast for the crust, then you just make it in a skillet. Super fast, super easy, and super delicious! This is a recipe that I'll hang on to for a long time. Here's Ryan rolling out the dough (perfectly).
We also took a trip to a fantastic greenhouse/nursery to pick out some new houseplants. Here's a nice photo of the mom-to-be among the foliage.
There was a little golden retriever puppy named Grace hanging out at the greenhouse too. Any day is a good day when you run into a puppy!
After church on Sunday morning we had brunch at a restaurant called Toast, known for its pancakes. I decided on the blueberry granola pancakes. So good!
And finally, I took a picture of the crazy horse statue outside of Denver International Airport. I've wanted to blog about this sculpture before because of the horrible story of its creation, but never could get a good shot- until this trip when I had a high quality camera (you drive by the statue at about 70 mph heading into (or out of) the airport). The work is called “Blue Mustang,” by the artist Luis JimĂ©nez, who was killed in 2006 when a section of the 9,000-pound fiberglass statue fell on him during construction. You can't tell by this photo, but the eyes are bright red. Many in Denver love personally creeps me out. It really is a killer horse.
On a final note, Louise sent me home with lots of hens and chicken plants for a new rock garden that I'm starting. They're planted and doing well...and have inspired me to expand some of my flower landscaping around our property...but that is for another entry later this week.