Straight on Through

Things in my head and now …. not

Maiden Voyage: Of A Snow Shoe Rookie

The day has finally come!  I have talked big about this for months now – but today was the day I finally found something I enjoy doing outdoors in the winter besides making snow angels…

Snow Shoeing!

I have wanted to try for years and just never 1) found the time, 2) made the time, 3) actually took the steps to make it happen.   But no more I say!  I am no longer the procrastinator I once was….  I have now gone… where my feet have never gone before…  within a snow shoe.  (Insert moment of silence here)

Thank you to Kari Lake, who heard of my possible outing if I would actually break down and buy the snow shoes (yet not wanting to spend money on something I may – or may not, enjoy…) I walked into the office on Thursday morning and there they were waiting for me, all shiny and red… I no longer had any excuses to delay.

This morning Betty Vosberg and I went to the Arboretum for a class on snow shoeing.  She already snow shoes, but was interested in seeing what the arboretum had for trails.  Me?  I just wanted to go… I didn’t care where we went.   The day could not have been more perfect for a whiny winter person like me…. a balmy 40 degrees as we stomped through the trails and made our own.  I loved it!  Thanks Sandi, thanks Kari, and thanks Betty!

January 31, 2009 Posted by | Just me | 1 Comment

Pieces of Me…

I am not really sure why I feel a desire to put this to words… but I do.  So I will.puzzle_pieces_id150248_size500o

January 27th is in most cases, most years, a hard day for me.  It is for one my mom’s birthday and if you know me well, you know that I am my mother’s daughter…. I am her sarcastic, fun loving, joker of a daughter, one hundred percent.  You would also know – that I miss her very much and if I have anything that works like kryptonite on me… it is my undying, devoted love for my family.

Many of you also know that January 27th is also the day that in 1980… my life changed forever when our family home caught on fire and that catastrophe took with it the lives of my 5 year old sister Tara, and my 39 year old father, Gary.  This left me, and my mom who at that time was 32.  I was 12.

This is one of those events in life that I would think with all the years… with the young age that I was, I wouldn’t have such clarity of the events of that day.  But I do.  I can recall the time, how it happened, what was said, my dad’s last words… my last glimpse of him… holding Tara.

And yes… my heart breaks over, and over, again.

Faith in God brings me to the place where I am today.  I am strong in that faith… and I know I will get to see them all again someday.  Yet… to be completely honest… I still do, and probably always will… carry an ache inside of me of opportunities on this earth lost… knowing them better, growing up with my sister, being an aunt…. conversations and life lessons….

The final piece of this is that mom died in 1996 along with my step dad when a car crossed into their lane and hit them head on.  The last member of my immediate family… in a blink of an eye… vanished from me.

Over the last few weeks I have found myself drawn to my mother’s jewelery.  She loved unusual pieces and she has an antique dentist cabinet full of them.  This is something that now 13 years later… I still have not cleared out.  I don’t think I ever will.  It is hers…  I love opening one of the many tiny drawers and peeking inside…  the jewelery that once I found to be uniquely her, I now am drawn too… and wearing some of it recently, knowing that she was the last one to put them on…. is a little breath of her.

I feel the day coming…. almost like a weight.  I don’t know why this year it seems to pull at me stronger than in the past few…. but it is… and I don’t mind because I like to think of them…. and each of them somehow intertwine in this date of January 27th.  They are the pieces of me that I am missing.

Sometimes I am amazed at how much.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Devotion in motion | 3 Comments

Monday Mind Dump

  • Weigh in for last Tuesday was .6 down….  good!  I am in maintenance mode now which always is a bit nerve racking….
  • Worked out Tuesday afternoon at the Y.  I wasn’t going to, but Heidi had planned on going, and then Justin wanted to go too so I went for a bit to be with both of them.
  • Wednesday small group study went well…. liking the study and the group of course!
  • Wednesday and Thursday took off from the YMCA.  Needed a break.
  • Thursday morning our coffee group started our study of Power of a Praying parent.  It is interesting to see how our group can make this work as we have kids from infant to adult among us all.  Great study!
  • Friday went out to dinner with Dan and Key.  It was fun just to hang out with them.  Friday afternoon I had started to move all my books to the old office/new library.  I love how is it coming together! This is going to be a great room!
  • Friday Heidi and I tried out the “Drums Alive” Class at the Y.  You get drum sticks and you pound them on one of the big exercise balls while doing cardio.  Sounds simple, but we were sweating and laughing!  The teacher said if anyone drops a drum stick everyone has  to cheer you.  I dropped a stck.  Twice.
  • Hit the Y in the a.m. then spent afternoon working in the house and reading.  I finished book 3 of the Twilight series, “Eclipse”.  I had strong opinions on this book… read review here.
  • Saturday evening Justin and I watched Freedom Writer’s – I LOVE this movie!  See review here.
  • Sunday was a FULL day.  Church and then the 201 class, followed by the Re Up Membership meeting…. I didnt leave until 3 pm.  Home to quickly get supper on and do a couple things then our last floor hockey game was at 5 p.m.  Bitter sweet – love our team and hated to see it end!
  • Sunday Evening hung out with Al and Chance stayed over night.  After Chance went to bed, Justin and I played a game of Monopoly on Wii.  We were up until after midnight…..
  • This morning I completed my walking goal for January of 50 miles!  Kind of excited about that.  I thought I might have been reaching too high but made it with a few days to spare!

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Just me | Comments Off on Monday Mind Dump

Inspirational Blog…

whiteley-creekA few days ago I received an email from my friend Adrienne, who along with her husband Dick, owns the Whitely Creek Bed and Breakfast just outside Brainerd over by the airport.  Her Blog, Whitely Creek Bed and Breakfast has been chosen as one of five finalists in the Well Fed Network’s Food Blog Awards.

Adrienne is an amazing cook… at the Bed and Breakfast she makes incredible organic meals and is always trying out new mouth watering recipes that keep her guests coming back year after year for more of the great cooking, and amazing atmosphere that is provided at Whitely Creek.

Catching up on her blog over the past days has reminded me of all that Dick and Adrienne do to provide a unique experience for their guests.  I browsed her recipes on her blog, from the chocolate buttermilk cupcakes, Stormy Day Bean Soup, to Beef and Cabbage with Rice… and that’s not even mentioning all the great craft ideas!

(To vote in this contest CLICK HERE )

Today… I took this inspiration and decided with the cold weather and Al busy all day down in the office working on three large bid projects, that I would surprise him with a nice supper.  Our crazy life style puts us in the “quick prep” meal category many times and it is nice to occasionally prepare something with love.  I picked up some country ribs at Super One and a few baking potatoes and prepped my personal recipe for Country Ribs.  Al’s a real meat and potatoes kind of guy who will find this to be just the thing when he comes in the house later today and we can enjoy a great meal together.

Country Ribs

Place the country ribs in a large covered kettle where they can simmer in enough water to cover them.  Add slices of onion, bouillon (or onion soup mix), 2 mashed garlic cloves, and pepper.  Let simmer in covered kettle for 2 hours so they become extremely tender.

Strain off excess water and place ribs in a warm crock pot on low.  In bottom of crock I put a little Asian Zing sauce (found at Buffalo Wild Wings).  When ribs are in crock add more of the sauce over the ribs and let cook on low for 4 or more hours.

Serve with large baked potatoes with all the fixings and a salad.

January 24, 2009 Posted by | Just me | Comments Off on Inspirational Blog…

Spiritual Boot Camp (Week 3)

Well…  I am still kicking around this boot camp and have come to terms with it now being as planned as I am still getting quite a bit out of doing this.

Mind: I am definitely in my Bible more and more.  This past week I spend a few mights looking through different scripture, usually on an average of at least and hour or more.

Body: I think I had a record work out week.  With my friend Heidi at the YMCA, when I can go when she does I always spend more time there as we get to talking and time passes quickly.  In the last week I walked (tread mill, and elliptical) 16 miles.

Spirit: This one is not perfected… it is random and I find myself praying for a few minutes here and there throughout my day as I think of people in my life who need prayer, or I think of a PTL (in some cases that is a green light when I am hurrying through town…) .  I hope as I finish up this next week or so that I can become stronger in this area and more focused.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Just me | 1 Comment

Monday Mind Dump

  • Weighed in last Tuesday at 4 pounds down for the week.  WHAT???  (Not that I am complaining!)  So goal reached!  Total of 29.8 pounds.  Woo Hoo!  Now to maintain…  oh scary…
  • Tuesday night had Book Club at my home and that means, yup, potluck!  Great food (oh oh…)  and I loved that we themed  around Jewish food to go with our book.  Sarah’s Key was an excellent review.
  • Wednesday afternoon started to feel a little blah.  Laid down in the early afternoon with Tylenol and slept until after 7 pm.  Still felt a little off for about 24 hours but it passed with nothing major.
  • Dove into book 2 of the Twilight series after having finished Twilight (Loved it by the way – see review here)
  • Thursday coffee group was canceled due to the extremely cold weather we are experiencing here ( 25 below zero…) That gave me the opportunity to sleep in (just a bit…) I finished New Moon today – see review here
  • Friday was an errand day… got in on the new Group Power class at the YMCA and accomplished quite a bit … later that evening went to Becker Minnesota with a group to go to a BGC family gathering.
  • Saturday Al and I went out to dinner at Poncho and Lefty’s (had a salad but the chips and salsa won me over…) and then nozed around a bit in Gander Mountain.  I am eye balling snow shoes as my next adventure….  also a good pair of boots…  (hint to my hubby for my birthday!)
  • Sunday was a full day as I FINALLY found the energy to work on the old business office that I have now made into the library.  Of course as I worked on this, it led to my working on the spare bedroom that had become my personal “I don’t know what to do with this so I will put it here” room.  This will be ongoing for awhile but I am excited to see it get put together.
  • Chance came over and hung out for the afternoon.  I helped Al in the office and then had floor hockey Sunday evening.  We lost.  At least we are consistent and we really do have fun.
  • Monday morning I will work out and then do a bit of time in the office.  I have year end to file for our business, and the continuing project of the library and spare room.

January 18, 2009 Posted by | Just me | Comments Off on Monday Mind Dump

Get Strong…

I have friends who hear God on a pretty regular basis.  They are great spiritual people and I know when they say God has led their direction it is true.  I love that!  I hope someday I will more frequently respond to that audible whisper….

Recently I have been picking up on a message.  This one is different from the way I would say I normally hear God’s direction for me.  I woke up a few days ago with a clear message.

“Get strong.”

Well… what is that?  I have really thought about how to take this, and of course considered if this is just part of my own thinking as I work through this month of Boot Camp, strenthening my body, my scripture reading, and my prayer life.  But, the message keeps coming to me.

“get strong.”

So now I am really thinking about this and wondering what I am preparing for.  Does God have a plan for me that I am preparing for?  Do I need to mentally and physically be ready for His direction?  If that is the case, then that is exciting!

Yet another side of me wonders… is something going to happen that is going to knock me for a loop… a blow that is going to require me to be spiritually and physically strong to come through it.  Something that I will really need to be able to cling to my Bible teachings to pull me through and reach out for God in a faith stronger than I ever thought possible?

I guess this post is partially for my own doccumentation of what I am hearing and feeling now, but also to mark it as fact, so if God is preparing me for something be it an opportunity or a hardship… I can look back at this and remember.

I pray that I am doing what I have been called to do by getting strong.  I know that whatever the future holds, I have been blessed with great friendships that will sustain me.

Psalm 18:1-3

1 I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.

2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.


January 18, 2009 Posted by | Devotion in motion | Comments Off on Get Strong…

The Curse of the Friendship Bread

friendship-batterYou have probably heard of it…a friend gives you a ziploc bag with this liquidy batter in it and a copy of instructions.  You have just been given friendship bread.  The truth is, it is a really sweet tradition.  A friend gives you the bread mix and you are all happy because they thought of you.  You now have instructions to squish the bag around for the next 5 days, and then on the sixth day you add a few ingredients, then put back on your counter and squish for the next day or two.

For me… it falls apart pretty much from the offer of the bread.  As of this date I have never brought a Friendship Bread to completion… IE.  baked bread.

It’s not that I dont want too… I love that it is given to me… and I am right on it the first few squish days… but at some point I forget to squish… or miss the day to add in the new ingredients… and then I dont know if you can continue on… or if now you are making something deadly and lethal and would not be considered friendship bread at all if I passed it out to unsuspecting friends to bake, eat, and pass on.  Kind of like a plague…

My friend Paula gave me a friendship bread bag last Sunday.  And as of this date I have done my squishing as instructed, and am a little excited as tomorrow is the add in day and I am so far remembering that I need to do that.

Maybe – just maybe, this time will break the curse.

Amish Friendship Bread Recipe

Day 1 – receive the starter (the recipe for the starter is below)

Day 2 – stir

Day 3 – stir

Day 4 – stir

Day 5 – Add 1 cup each flour, sugar and milk.

Day 6 – stir

Day 7 – stir

Day 8 – stir

Day 9 – stir

Day 10 – Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Divide into 4 containers, with 1 cup each for three of your friends and 1 cup for your own loaves. Give friends the instructions for Day 1 through Day 10 and the following recipe for baking the bread.

After removing the 3 cups of batter, combine the remaining cup of Amish Friendship Bread starter with the following ingredients in a large bowl:

2/3 cup oil
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Using a fork beat by hand until well blended. You can add 1 cup raisins and 1 cup nuts (optional).

Grease two loaf pans with butter, sprinkle with sugar instead of flour.

Bake at 325 for 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes, remove from pans. Makes two loaves of Amish Friendship Bread.

Amish Friendship Bread Starter

This is the Amish Friendship Bread Starter Recipe that you’ll need to make the Amish Friendship Bread (above). It is very important to use plastic or wooden utensils and plastic or glass containers when making this. Do not use metal at all!


1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110°F)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup warm milk (110°F)


1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water for about 10 minutes. Stir well.

2. In a 2 quart glass or plastic container, combine 1 cup sifted flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or the flour will get lumpy when you add the milk.

3. Slowly stir in warm milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Loosely cover the mixture with a lid or plastic wrap. The mixture will get bubbly. Consider this Day 1 of the cycle, or the day you receive the starter.

For the next 10 days handle starter according to the instructions above for Amish Friendship Bread.

January 15, 2009 Posted by | Insane Moments, Just me | Comments Off on The Curse of the Friendship Bread

Spiritual Boot Camp Week II

So here I am at the end of week two and I still am in awe of how it all plays out… so different than what I had in mind…

MIND: My goal was to dive more into my Bible throughout the week and that is happening, but week two did not lead to what I had planned either.  I still seem to be in a mode where I dabble a little bit here, a little bit there.  Part of this is due to the different studies I am currently doing with the 201 Class, Experiencing God (small group study) and new this week is the Power of a Praying Parent study with my Thursday morning coffee group.  Each study takes me to a different part of my Bible and I am dive in… and then move on as the week continues and I hit another study – another part of the Bible.  I wanted to study more in January and I am… but not to the point that I scattered my study.  I am going to try to focus better for week three.

BODY: Still good on that one.  I was able to work out 5 times last week and put in plenty of time due to my friend Heidi, (I tend to linger longer when I am chatting with someone).

SPIRIT: Better week on prayer.  I think when you have kids… no matter how old they are, you can find plenty to pray about in just that area alone!  🙂  I have also combined prayer into my workout time, and in my queit time in the evening.  Now with the Power of the Praying Parent I am learning new prayer methods which is great as I have never done a prayer study before.

January 15, 2009 Posted by | Just me | 2 Comments

Night at The Mansion (Linden Hills, Little Falls)

Our Mansion tradition started 4 years ago when at an Authors Tea at the Linden Hills Conference Center I discovered we could actually stay over night in either of the two mansions we had toured.

The price was right – at that time, less than what you would pay for a hotel stay… and we got the whole mansion to ourselves!  4 floors of beautiful antiques, gorgeous bedrooms with all the original furniture in them, the main sitting area looked as though at one time it could hold ballroom dancing….  it was a true find.

So my friends Heidi, Sara, Cindy, and Ruth all went that first year with the brilliant idea to dress the time…. in other words.. formal gowns.   That first year we were probably there five minutes when we all giggled our way to our designated rooms to change.  We were like little girls playing dress up and we loved it.

And for the following two years, thats what it was – a time to get together and celebrate our friendship, and Christmas.  We loved to explore the rooms… admire the beauty of the furnishings and reminess about what it must have been like to actually live in these homes.  We would play board games and bring tons of food and eat in the formal dining room, (and eat and eat) and take tons of pictures in our gowns.  We have so many great pictures and memories from each of the years!

It was after our second year at the mansion that we had learned that we would be the last to stay in it as Little Falls was deciding to close it due to the expense of running it and it broke our hearts.  I cried that year, feeling that it was the last time I would sit by the fireplace, or sleep in one of the amazing rooms filled with memories of another time.  We were the last group to stay in the homes.

Then, after a year of its closing a rumor was circulating that the homes would reopen to the public.  I quickly got on the phone and connected with the new manager who knew of our dressing up (we had left a picture or two behind…) and loved that we wanted to come back.  We booked in January of 2008 and we were the first group back in the mansions.  It was like coming home.  That year, we each brought a friend to share this amazing experience and 10 of us this time dressed up and shared a great evening of laughter.

Now, this past Friday was our stay for 2009.   Four of the original five stayed in the mansion this year… but now, after being reopened for a year, things had changed.  The rooms now all had locks on them except the ones that we were staying in.  We no longer could explore the rooms and admire the beauty of the furniture, and read the journals of all who had stayed there before us.  The fourth floor was locked so you could not even have access to it.  To someone who had never stayed before, they would not know of the beautiful pictures on that floor… or that there were more bedrooms up there.  From the hallway you would probably just think it was a door to the attic.

When we inquired about these changes we were told that the board had made a decision to not give people full access of the mansion.  Things apparently were getting moved around and we heard that the heating of the mansion was incredibly expensive and having all those rooms open really added to that.

So, we understood… but having been there so many times before – we knew we were missing a piece of what we loved so much about staying at the mansion.  We discussed either we had to bring more people with us to open up more rooms, or maybe… just maybe… our season at the mansions had passed.

We enjoyed our evening – don’t get me wrong.  We still did what we loved to do – hang out, catch up, laugh, and eat.  Yet when the night was over, we had started discussing that maybe we change venues… look into a bed and breakfast, or change our theme and do something else entirely.

This time… I did not cry.  I feel so blessed to have been in the homes when they were open to explore.  I know you can tour the homes almost any time for $10, and that is always an option… but not the same as sitting in one of the rooms and taking it in with your friends.

So I am unsure what our future holds with the Mansions…. maybe it has run its course with us, and oddly, I am at peace with that.  Not saddened… but almost a little excited to see what adventure we will come up with next.

November 2009 update:  Alex Ames left some wonderful information here for you to understand more about the changes in the beautiful homes in Little Falls:

“I would like to take a moment to assure everyone who reads these entries that the volunteers at the non-profit Linden Hill will do everything in our power to make sure that your visit to the estate is everything that it can be. We devote ourselves to maintaining the beauty of the homes so important to the history of Little Falls and Minnesota and to guaranteeing that your stay is as pleasant as possible. We changed the way we handle some bookings so that we can actually hope to make a profit and thus keep the mansions open to the public for years to come. The volunteers and staff at Linden Hill are 100% devoted to preserving the historic integrity of the mansions and to working with guests to make sure that they enjoy their use of the homes. As a public organization, our commitment is to the communities we serve. Please feel free to reply to this comment with questions or concerns, and I will happily do my best to explain the reasoning behind Linden Hill’s operations guidelines”.

– You can see Alex’s full comments below in the comment section.  Thank you Alex for this information.

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Just me, Life thoughts | 8 Comments