Sunday, September 27, 2015

Happy Birthday Tom!!!

Many happy returns of the day and all that:)

Tom's birthday was a full day celebration that is now headed into the weekend. As it should be!!

He was able to have coffee with his friends and in true "old guy" fashion it was a 2 hour coffee. They parked themselves at a popular coffee shop in the old 'hood and managed to see many friends coming in and out to get a cuppa.  Sounds very Grumpy Old Men, doesn't it?!!

Many of you (65+) wished him a happy birthday via Facebook and its so much fun to see the wishes pouring in from long time friends from all over the world. Of course India ruled the day in most well wishes. Love it!!

Phones calls were plenty with long chats getting reconnected the old fashioned way.

We even managed to sneak up for a mini date (40 min) at the local liquor store's Oktoberfest customer appreciation beer tasting in the park. Its always fun to try sips of new beers while catching up with neighbors, other parents from school. I learned I like wheat beers and pineapple cider. Who knew?! 

And as the capstone of the day...the family dinner.  When we asked Tom what he wanted to do for his birthday dinner, he said "make the family Korean". Ok....we are suppose to treat you ... not the other way around BUT...he didn't get any arguing from us as its one of our favorite meals, majorly labor intensive and a real treat. We had pork bone soup, mandu (dumplings) chapjae (noodles) kimchi, chicken wings (even the kids friends say these are the best ever!) and ...of course ... rice.   It was SO GOOD!!

Presents were next and unlike my birthday, they did NOT come from the airport gift shop or the gas station. He made out ... a brand new, high end, high powered (drum roll) Kitchen Aid Mixer. Now, not usually what ever 55 yr old male wants but ... he really has been coveting this for years.  Kay is thrilled and they are already planning their next gourmet meal.   The kids got him a beer tasting kit, new flask, new funnels and a cast iron bacon press.  alcohol and grease, everything you need.

Now we are headed into the weekend where I am SURE we'll sing Happy Birthday a few more times and celebrate with friends.

Tom - we love you. You are an amazing dad, friend, parent, neighbor, support to the kids friends, support to the kids friends parents and overall blessing in our lives. We couldn't do what we do, without what you do.  THANK YOU!!!

 (Jimmy was our photographer of the day)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Weekend Update

Wow, what a weekend!!!  We'll just hit the highlights:)

Saturday Billy KICKED BUTT (literally) at his Taekwondo tournament. It was the 1st of the season and he was signed up for pomsea (patterns)  weapons (a form of patterns holding a weapon, in this case a comma - sort of look like mini sieves) and sparring (his favorite).  He did GREAT, was a bit nervous but really proud of how he did.

1st up - pomsea. He killed it. Its all about intensity, focus, form, precision and control. That's our Bill. He walked away with a Gold medal and was thrilled. His bestie, Grace, also got a gold and everyone from his dojong got either a silver or gold in this event. Super fun way to start the day!

2nd .. weapons. He has only been practicing with comma's for the last 6 weeks or so and this was his 1st ever competition in weapons. He was most nervous for this event. He secured a Bronze but also said ... I didn't expect to do much better, everyone elses routines were more complex than mine.  It'll come, just proud he showed up, tried and did his best! (To put it in perspective, the kid that won had cartwheels, somersaults and a jumping split in his routine, Billy's weren't that Bruce Lee-ish)

3rd - Grand Champion round of pomsea - this is where they take ALL the Gold medal winners, regardless of age or belt color and have them compete for the Grand Champion trophy (which is officially taller than Billy) Its high drama, anxiety ridden and fun to see the best of the best. Billy did great (again) but ... in a field of 20+ wasn't able to secure the prize. No worries, there is always next time.

Finally - sparring. This is the most nerve racking for Tracy as Billy is very strategic, zen and not as aggressive as the other kids (his coach actually called him a pacifist) BUT ... he loves it and spars with a big smile on his face the whole time (not very intimidating to the other kids but oh well).  He won his 1st match and was on to the gold medal round. His opponent was a bit more fast/aggressive and managed to squeak out a 1-2 victory over Billy. So, Billy got Silver. He is a smart, intelligent sparer, we just need to work on his offense a bit:)

So, Billy got a full set of medals, one of each and is thrilled.

A side note on the tournament. Its run by Grand Master Lee and I have to say. I think he might have a bit of a control issue. The tournament schedule is not only NOT shared in advance, its also NOT shared during the day and the ONLY person that knows the schedule is him. This means, for parents and kids alike, spending the WHOLE day waiting for your name to be called to compete.  We had a full 3 hour gap that (had we realized we could have gone and had lunch and come back) entailed sitting around. Then, he called the kids for sparring a full 90 min's before they actually sparred. Which means Billy just sat on the hard floor of the gym for 90 min's watching other kids spar and waiting his turn. He is way more zen than I and didn't seem to mind but ... there has GOT to be another way. We got to the tournament at 8:15 and left at 4.  Full competition time by Billy?  14 min's. Total. Sigh....

But...we had a super yummy night of salsa verde pork, hearts of palm salad and yummy pudding parfaits waiting for us at home with Jim/Jen. We were celebrating Tom, Tracy and Jen's birthdays - Jen got a bottle of homemade rhubarb martini cordial (yummy), Tom the newest Lee Child Jack Reacher book (Yippee!!) and ... since Tracys birthday presents were all from the airport gift shop, they thought it would be appropriate to shop at the gas station. A Mr Clean Magic Pad (always handy), Spicy Chicken Noodle Bowl (Kay's favorite and I think she's already eaten it) car wash coupon book (perfect if you know tracy well, she only washes her car about once every 2-3 years) a book of matches (practical) and a flashlight  WITH batteries (you can never have too many flashlights in a house with 3 kids)  A perfect ending to the day:)  Kay had a sleep over and Jimmy had basketball try outs so it really was VERY low key and lovely.

Sunday - Twins/Vikings game....
Tracy was able to score tickets to the Target Box for the Twins game. I JUST SO HAPPENED that the Vikings were also playing at home and so .... they had the football game on the TV in the suite and watched the baseball game live from a really spectacular view. Tracy invited Jimmy, who in turn invited his left limb (Anders) and his right limb (James).   The boys thought they died and went to heaven ... chicken wings, pizza, nachos, popcorn, cookies, unlimited soda, football, baseball, fireworks, the suite, valet parking, you name it.... God help them the next time they go to a "normal" game. They quickly made friends with Nolan (also in the box) and were busy talking sports trivia for the rest of the day. To make things even better, both the Vikings and the Twins won!

Sunday evening
Jimmy had his last basketball try out session with Anders and James. The anxiety was tense. Rumor was that they were going to cut 8 of the 22 boys and they were all critiquing their performance.  The BEST possible outcome was that they all 3 made the same team and we could set up a carpool program to make any Uber cabbie jealous. The WORST case was that 1 of them would make it and the other 2 wouldn't. Not only would this cut in on hanging out time would also make our lives a driving hell. 3 months, 11 tournaments, 100 games.  We NEED all 3 boys to make the same team!!!!

We also had the 1st annual Rock for the Gift. Tom sits on the board of Gift of Adoption (which does a killer golf tournament every year). They are trying to branch out to more donors and thought a live concert in a brew pub would be a good venue (and it was!!!) There was a comedian and 3 live artists. Awesome music, good (aka free) beer, a yummy food truck and we were able to invite many of our friends. So, it was an unexpected fun night out, just happened to be on a Sunday night.  I think we have a good platform for a killer fundraiser next year.

(PS - Monday morning Jimmy found out ....He made the A team - WOO HOO!!!  Anders and James were cut.  GOD HELP US! how in the world are we going to make it through this winter of basketball, gymnastics and taekwondo.....yikes!!!)       

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Are you ready for some football.....

Yes the leaves are starting to turn, the sun a bit lower on the horizon and a chill in the air, Fall and with Fall comes Football.

Jimmy is passionate about his music, school and sports but none compare to his fierce determination on the football field.

This year once again after cutting the snacks and sweets out  of his diet he made weight, checking onto camp at 6' and 154. He is excited and looking forward to a great season. (keep in mind he was 5' 11 1/2"  and 155 at his sports physical only a month ago)

This year on offense he is playing left guard and also wide receiver, he posted a 40 yard dash time of 5.6, pretty good for a kid his size. On defense he is playing line backer and left tackle. To date the team is one and one. The first loss was a combination of mixed up plays and turn overs, however Jimmy and his squad hung in there and in the second half they scored 14 points without allowing the other team any. The second game was won with Jimmy's help. He returned a kick-off about 60 yards setting up a first and goal, which they completed and won 19-15.  In a weird turn of events, the other team actually forgot about our 1st touchdown in the 1st few minutes of the game so they were going crazy celebrating when the clock ran down. Our side (aka parents) watched in silent awe, each of us asking ourselves ... did we do our math wrong? I thought we won...  Needless to say, after a quick retally of the game we were declared winners. Very strange.


He plays left tackle as I said on defense. The opposing teams have each run one play to the left side of the line resulting in two 20 plus yard losses as a result of Jimmy happening to be in the backfield looking for the football, so far the other teams have been running the ball on the right side of the line.

He has  a couple of kick off returns, two passes both for first downs and overall is happy with his play. He has found a new love in playing defense which means trouble for the opposition.  He's got 5+ sacks and always makes it through the line.  He's agressive.

He's also been voted captain of his squad which is a huge honor but also a little troubling as it means he can talk to the refs and ... we all know how much he likes to "talk" (ie argue his point).  So far he's been pretty reasonable, lets hope that continues.

Its a fun team to watch, cant wait for the next set of games!  (look for the pink socks in the photo below - #77)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Thoughts & Prayers

The past week or so has be full of sad news and tragic events in our neighborhood and community.
We would like to ask you all to hold the community in the light of healing, wholeness and peace.

The kids have had a couple of hard life lessons to comfort and with death it can be a bit hard. They are asking questions, going to Memorial Services and moving forward, as well all do at times like these.

We will be taking these moments as they come and hold each other close and comfort in the fact that we have a great family, circle of friend and network of support and we have all of you to thank for that. Rest assured we are all fine, life sometimes throws you off a bit and we need to acknowledge that and ask for prayers and kind thoughts.  Special prayers to Williams  family, Kyles family and the family of one of our grade school teachers.

Tom, Tracy, Jimmy, Kay, Billy and Nikki

Friday, September 11, 2015

All the best laid plans...

Every year, in a family tradition, we meet up with Tracy's sisters family (Tammy, Jeff, Georgia, Joey and Herbie) to go camping at a midway point between Michigan and where ever we are living (MPLS or Toronto)  :) we have had some AMAZING fun times and seen cool parts of the upper Midwest.

This year was no exception. We had reservations at Fayette State Park in the UP (eh) and were loaded for bear ... food, check.  camping equipment,  check.  Stopping in Wausau for Sammies pizza and new Nikes at the Eastbay outlet store, check.  We were ready to go and the kids were excited for cousin time.

However, as you saw from the title of this blog, all the best laid plans....

Due to for unforeseen/unpredicted events, we had to make a last minute call to cancel. Needless to say, the kids were devastated.  Kay in particular called the "unfair" card that she wasn't going to get her allotted yearly bonding time with Georgia. It was a sad night.

However, we rallied on all the silver linings of such a decision ... You wont have to miss school! ....  You get to go football/gymnastics/taekwondo practice  ...

They weren't buying it.

So, we switched gears.  Ok, we'll take advantage of a FULL unplanned weekend and staycation.

Rules of the staycation:
~ there would be 1 mandatory fun family activity. No friends involved and no whining.
~ each kid got to pick one friend activity
~ Tom/Tracy got a date night

Seems fair.

So, where did it all land up?  A very fun weekend of sleep, low key activities and enjoying the last really hot weekend of "summer" in MPLS.

Mandatory family fun activity - Bunker Hills Beach. Not an original idea since this is an outdoor water park and it was 95 degrees on Labor day weekend but.. 6 water slides, a wave pool (the kids favorite), ice cream, Mike/Ikes, hamburgers, a climbing wall, lazy river... really really fun day.

Kids friend activities: 
  • Jimmy - Bar Mitzvah for a new friend Rafi with his posse PLUS a VERY grown up trip to the State Fair WITHOUT adults. He and his 3 best friends (aka the posse) were dropped at an express bus, headed straight to the fair and walked around completely independent and big men on campus for hours.  They loved it and for all my angst and letting 4 14 yr olds out into the world without adult supervisor, they performed nicely. Jimmy went on one antigravity ride and called it a day. He also drank 6 bottles of water instead of soda and managed to spend only 1/2 of the money he took with him (shocking) AND ... they all found their way back to the bus and home. Very proud of these guys.
  • Kay - Sleep over and playdate that lasted 36 hours. They made sweets, choreographed a full dance, watched 3 movies, sat by the bonfire, explored global market including a Thai lunch of pho and bubble tea, ate more popcorn than imaginable and went swimming in Cedar Lake.

  • Billy - A LONG afternoon playdate that was nicely balanced for the introvert pair.  Downtime on their tablets playing a video game against each other without talking and then 2+ straight hours at Cedar Lake wrestling in the water. 
  • Tom/Tracy date night - impromptu dinner out with Wade/Angela at the "hot" new restaurant in town - Nighthawk.  Tracy LOVED her dish but let's not get started on Tom. Long story short, they ran out of what he went there for and he had a hard time switching gears. We did go bar hopping after dinner (more like wine bar hopping) and got to see some fun places in Uptown. Not to mention Tom's 1st experience with Uber. All was well 
  • Family date nights (these were the bonus activities) - we had the Petersetters (Kristin, Craig, Anders and Bjorn) over for a homemade Indian dinner and bonfire. Kristin is Tracy's dog walking buddy and closest neighborhood friend.  Craig is a former major league baseball player who keeps it on the QT (just kidding),  Anders is part of the posse and our 3rd son and Bjorn is great creative friends with Kay/Billy and Billy's "bus" buddy (aka, Tom takes Billy and Bjorn to school everyday)
  • PLUS.... Wendy, Annemiek and Lucy (Nikki's friend) came over for a smoked turkey dinner that kicked BUTT.  They brought a fresh corn/avocado salad with a tomato pie, we ate on the back deck on the new picnic tabel and it heavenly.   
So, while we were bummed we didn't partake in tradition, we made the best of the situation.

And ... all was well.

Now, if you need any camping food (pop tarts, cereal, bagels, pasta, s'more materials, chips, soda, beer, etc) stop by - we have a TON of it:)               


Thursday, September 03, 2015

California Dreaming and a Pontoon Nose Dive

Headed off to San Francisco for the Labor Day weekend show... I got my hush puppies on, I guess I was never meant for, glitter rock and roll....

Tracy and I headed off to sunny California in search of sun, sand, wine, food and perhaps surf.
We are super fortunate that Aunt Sue was able to come and stay with the kids so we could get a few days of R&R..

Sunday afternoon we headed to the coast, watching our own movies on the plane, enjoying some quiet time at 30,000 feet and since we booked our tickets with world perks points we also we treated to a cocktail and a snack, righteous way to start the trip! We landed, found the rental car agency and check out this albeit compact very cool efficient Chevy spark, in a carny yellow then headed in San Fran. We strolled all around the area, Union Market, Hyde street, had a couple of stops for an appy and a drink at some eccentric San Fran pubs and finished the night at a Creo/New Orleans jazz club/ soul food place called Tupelo. Their smoked collard greens, yes smoked, were awesome along with the blackened catfish, red beans and rice were out of bounds but the trip to flavor town was all about the fried pickles!!!

Monday we found the work out room and then headed off to Bodega Bay. We may a stop in Sausalito and wandered around there for a couple of hours. We found small family run Italian deli that inspired us to have a road side picnic, however between Sausalito and Bodega Bay there are no picnic stops so we had to settle on a  lunch at the Marina in beautiful Bodega Bay.  The town is relatively small however the beaches are really cool and the atmosphere is total California. The Sonoma Coast Villa and Spa was our home for the next 4 days and was just perfect. The first two days we were the only guests, super quiet and comfy! Our Innkeeper was an efficient German dude, not real outspoken but spot on with the breakfast options and printing out our boarding passes. The area is hilly, coastal, old trees with long vines, sleepy hollow kind of place. We received a complimentary bottle of champagne with our Groupon and the Spa had wine tasting from 4:30-5:30 so we opted to save the champagne and head out to the lobby for a bit of local red only to be informed that since we received the champagne, no wine for you, again the German efficiency coming out.That night found us at a very local, third generation run family style Italian joint, think walls lined with old booze bottle colorfully decorated ,wall to wall figurines,uneven floors, a menu to die for this is : Dinuccis  Italian Dinner. The entrees were not for a mere mortal so fortunately they offered a minimum $7.00 plate charge per adult. Tracy ordered the soup and salad, $7.00 , Tom ordered the $24.95 porterhouse steak which came with, soup, salad, antipasti ,bread basket and a 16 oz., steak. The soup was house Minestrone and there is really no way to do the soup justice it was and is simply the most outrageous Minestrone on the planet totally out of bounds. In fact we couldn't finish all that they gave us so the waitress went to back it up and came back with a quart container and said, " I topped her off for ya" ( well in the California version of that).

Tuesday was Sonoma Wine county tour day, not officially, it was the day we chose to go on a tour. We booked with a local guide service, complete with all the water you can drink, lunch snacks and a tour bus. There we 10 hearty souls setting off to expand their wine horizons. Phil was our guide and being more of a beer connoisseur than a cork dork, we treated to a bunch of beer facts...
These tours all have a format and a 'script" so to speak and Phil's was not to tell us where we were going until we left the previous winery, which really made no difference because besides one of the wineries we didn't know the names of the rest.  We went to one well known winery called Buena Vista, where the founder is created with starting the whole California wine sensation, folk lore or fact...
The rest of the wineries were small local wineries where they only sell the wines at the winery. They were all really interesting and different and all have something different to say about winemaking, I will not nerd you out however going on a tour is a must. Homewood, Ty Caton and Nicholson Ranch rounded our tour.  Since we were in California we felt the need to find a Mexican place and experience some down home Mexican food. The small town on Petaluma is right between Sonoma and Bodega Bay and we found Mi Pueblo, a small little place offering up real deal Mexican. Fresh veggies marinated in an adobe sauce, fajita's with fresh corn tortilla's and a balk bean bonanza, we left with a to go back of fajita fixings, and a happy tummy.

Wednesday was all about the sand, hiking, surf and leftovers. We hiked along the coast for about 4 miles then headed over to one of the local beaches to have a picnic lunch, watch the sufers, read books and just chill. It was a bit on the cool side but we still managed to get sunburned while out and about.

Having ventured into the thriving town of Bodega, a mere stones throw up the street we found a few interesting tidbits, this little town was where Alfred filmed many scenes from the Birds as well as they have a really old cemetery and a killer bar/restaurant called the Casino. The place is straight out of hippey meets Ralph Loren/with a homeless surfer vibe, quite crazy. They take only cash, have no on hand chef but feature rotating floater Chefs that come in different nights of the week, make a couple of appetizers, two antes and a dessert, we lucked out on Wednesdays nights these two women from down the coast come in and make killer Padron Peppers and the best banana cream pie.
The crowd ranged for a suffer type dude with no shoes to Chartreus Micro bus full of Hippies, a couple of college trust fund kids to two Grandmas chugging down the last of their bottle of wine, kids running around, a man and wife completely decked out in camo - he even had the prerequisite chew can mark in his back jeans pocket,  total fun. The main course was a chicken with a caper and bacon cream sauce, killer rosemary potatoes, Tracy had pork chops with steamed and then roasted garden veggies and also stole a really yummy buttermilk biscuit from Tom, the whole presentation was totally spot on.

Thursday we headed back to San Francisco and headed home. We had a fun flight back and got to watch The Maze Runner together it was a great way to finish our get-a way!

Friday we packed up the pilot and headed up to Cross Lake for a weekend camping trip with or friends the Orevdahl's, a great fun family.  Doug and Jennifer have three boys, James who is Jimmy's age and Sam & Sean twins who are between Kay and Billy all the kids and parents a like get a long great and the weekend was no exception. We rolled in after a lunch stop at Buffalo Wild Wings, also known as Bdub, set up camp go organized the headed over to the Bait Box to pick up our transportation for the weekend. We were lucky to get the last boat for the weekend, a 1988 25' pontoon boat with only lawn chairs for seating and a fixed Bimini top, we were all set! Friday we explored the lake for a bit, caught a bunch of fish, of course Kay caught the first, the biggest and the most fish but everyone was in on the action! There is a boat up Supper club on the lake called the Warf, and we headed there for dinner. The fare was typical supper club and with the kids chicken stripes and fries were the main choice, except Kay who went after the Lobster Bisque, which was out of bounds good.  A bon-fire, s'mores and the telling of riddles and funny stories ended the first night.

Saturday was exploring the campground and then out on the boat. The kids had fun fishing, jumping off the pontoon and swimming around but the main attraction was wave jumping (or really diving). Yep Tracy at the helm found the big waves from the newer era power boats and we hit the waves head on. It was not really wave jumping more front end diving with the waves pounding into and over the kids soaking them in the process! We kept at it for sometime until one set of really big waves took the nose down below the surface and we almost lost a kid or two, time to head back. The Riverside Supper club was our host for Saturday night and did not disappoint. Tired, sore and ready for bed we headed back to the campground.

Sunday was pack up day and head back home to get ready for Monday, the first day of school no one was more excited than the parents, well not really...
the kids were looking forward to getting back to school as well. A great weekend and super fun trip....more to come.