Tuesday, September 20, 2011

United Way Kick Off

Mayo Clinic has been raising money for United Way for over 20 years, and this year, I volunteered to be the Division of Allergic Diseases advocate for United Way. Today was the big ole' kick off and I sat at one of the booths for an hour trying to get the word out to start pledging. I really, really, don't like asking for money and I am sympathetic to those who just don't have the monetary means to give, but I figured being an advocate would be a great way to give back to our community.

This week I'm busy organizing a bake sale to be held next Tuesday and while it's a little overwhelming, I continue to pray for my colleagues to be willing to donate baked goods and also to be willing to EAT them! Also, praying that we have a good turn out! The bonus is that it's a great opportunity for me to go through my recipes and try out a few new ones. While I'm nervous about how it will turn out, I am reassured that any amount of money we can donate will be put to good use.

I'm also planning a chili cook-off in October. I'm hoping that the other advocate will want to take the lead on this event, but for now... one step at a time!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

The weather has absolutely perfect on Labor Day - lots of sunshine and relatively cool! Steve has found so many fun and interesting things to do around Minnesota and Iowa and the MN Landscape Arboretum has been by far my favorite place to visit! I highly, highly recommend visiting especially if you love flowers, gardens, nature, and a little exercise. They have over 1100 acres of trees and gardens and you could easily spend a couple days exploring the grounds.

We brought along a picnic lunch, although there was a restaurant onsite. After our picnic, we visited the Children's Center that included a beautiful greenhouse and activites about plant functions, etc.

One of my favorite flowers in the greenhouse (and now I can't remember the name of it!)

Outside the Children's Center is a "nature playground." We could have spent hours here if only those pesky gnats would have left us alone! Amaya had a great time climbing over the logs, hiding in the forts, and having a tea party with wooden plates, etc.

One of the forts

A tree made out of pinecones

The trees were amazing - big old oak trees everywhere!

Throughout the gardens, were various statues and sculptures. This one is part of the collection called, "Steelroots."

Amaya liked the "dancers."

We all loved this "House of Sticks!"

And had fun getting lost in it!

And now begins the tour of the gardens!

"Follow me!"

Part of the "Bog Walk" (had we realized how big the arboretum was, we would have liked to take the remainder of the trail - they have over 12 miles of hiking trails!)

Amaya cheesing it up!

"Peek!" A tower overlooking the herb garden.

Amaya loved all the fountains and the lily pads.

The Japanese Garden with a koi pond.

The Rose Garden (my favorite exhibit)

Amaya at the Sensory Garden

After several hours of walking, we decided to take the 3 mile scenic drive to the Maze Garden.

It was more challenging than we had anticipated because the shrubs were so thick and tall!

We were running out of time and were still nowhere near the exit, so a little girl happened to show us a secret side exit and we were able to get out! I wish we could have done the entire maze, but hopefully next time.

We'd like to go back during the fall season when all the colors are changing, but we may need to save that for next year. But overall, it was a gorgeous and awesome day enjoying God's creations!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Jessica Sachs... only 23 years old... a bright future ahead... a deep love of God... a commitment to family... died 10 years ago today on American Flight 11. Jessica was a close friend of mine in high school. We were in several classes together, but our friendship really grew while we competed on John Marshall's Speech Team. A friendship that began as merely encouraging each other to win, quickly became a friendship sharing our faith, sharing hopes and dreams, sharing our failures and our successes.
As if the tragedy and horror surrounding September 11th wasn't enough grief to bear... having someone's life cut short that you've personally shared laughs, hugs, and tears, was unbearable. And then two days later, by Great Aunt Gertie died. Nearly every week while I was in college, she wrote me words of encouragement to "press on" during nursing school and she usually sent me a dollar or two to "buy gum, a pop, or some candy." She was an incredible woman full of life, love and a lot of crazy. (Crazy in a good way!) I admired her and while she lived so far away, she was my "kindred spirit."
At the time, I questioned God... why couldn't He prevent the terrorists? Why did Great Aunt Gertie have to die? Then I felt guilty... why wasn't I better about keeping in touch? Why didn't I tell them I loved them one more time? Then the anger... I wrote to Jessica's parents... they expressed their grief... their questions...their anger... their HOPE and their PEACE... I wrote to comfort them, but instead her parents ministered to me and reminded me of hope.
God knows the number of our days. God holds our life in the palm of His hands. This attack was no surprise to God. God didn't cut Jessica's life short... He knew His plan for her. Our life on earth is temporary, but we have hope of eternal life. A life of no evil, no terrorists, no bombings, no death. I'm so thankful for that hope in Christ... hope of a life spent in God's loving arms... hope of hugging my dear friend and my Great Aunt Gertie once again in heaven. Remembering you today...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cooper, Tess, and Tate

Last Saturday evening, we had the privilege of watching our friend's kids - Cooper, Tess, and Tate while Steve and Jen celebrated their anniversary at the Irish Festival here in Rochester. We've known the Hulls since our prenatal class, but it's obvious we have a little catching up to do!

It's hard to believe that almost 4 years have gone by since these little ones were born! Now these two are going to preschool - where does the time go?!?

Little Miss Tessa... she's full of spunk and I love this little one's hugs!

Amaya loves her too!

And Tate - three months old already! I've forgotten what it's like to hold a little baby... I had the most fun with him that evening.

Amaya loved him too! (She definitely ready for a brother or sister - not that we're announcing anything!) But when the time comes, we think she'll be a great big sister and an awesome helper!

We dug out the dress up clothes and weren't quick enough in getting a picture of Tess in this get-up, but we were able to get one of Amaya.

We are so blessed by their friendship and are so fortunate God placed them in our path.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Day of Preschool

Yesterday was Amaya's first day back at preschool. She was beyond excited to get out her backpack and pick out an outfit to wear. I had an early morning meeting at work, so Steve and Amaya had a special breakfast out at McDonald's before preschool. They picked me up and headed home for a few quick pictures and off to school we went!

Showing off her backpack!

"Come on! Let's go already!"

Quick picture out front by the sign.

It's hard to believe how quickly she's growing up. Last year she was a little nervous walking into her classroom, but this year she didn't hesitate at all. Being raised by two introverts can't be very easy, so we're proud of how much her confidence has grown this last year and how she handles new situations.

Amaya had a great first day! It's always a little challenging getting her to talk about what she did and what she learned about, but she REMEMBERED one of the boy's names in her class - Jackson! This is huge! And she also said that Mrs. Leif did the pledge of allegiance "a little differently than Mrs. Parker." I asked her if she was looking forward to go back on Monday and in "Storage Wars" fashion, she said, "YUUUUUP!"

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mill City Museum

Off on another adventure this week! On Wednesday morning, the weather was less than ideal for doing anything fun outside, so Steve did a little research and found the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis. It was built into the ruins of what was once the world's largest mill.

Here's a little history on the Mill itself taken from their website:

Beginning in 1880 and for 50 years thereafter, Minneapolis was known as the “Flour Milling Capital of the World” and more informally, as the “Mill City.”

The city grew up around the mills. In 1870, the city’s population was 13,000. Twenty years later, it had grown to nearly 165,000.

Grain came in via rail lines that stretched across the Northern Plains grain belt into the Dakotas and Canada. Trains also carried the milled flour to Duluth and to eastern U.S. destinations both for export and domestic distribution.

After World War I, the milling industry in Minneapolis began to decline. As the industry moved out of Minneapolis, the old mills fell into disuse. The Washburn A Mill closed in 1965 and was nearly destroyed by fire in 1991. Its ruins were incorporated into the Mill City Museum.

At the time the mill was the largest and most technologically advanced mill in the world, featuring new automatic steel rollers instead of traditional millstones. During its heyday, it was said that the mill ground enough flour to make 12 million loaves of bread a day.

Two different types of millstones

Here Amaya is designing her own cereal box!

A large Bisquick sign

Did you know that the cereal Wheaties was actually made by accident? Someone spilled a little wheat bran mixture onto a hot stove and thought it tasted pretty good. So, after several attempts at perfecting the cereal - Wheaties was developed.

The best part of the museum is the multi-story Flour Tower, in which visitors sit in the cab of a freight elevator and are taken to different floors of the building, each designed to look like a floor in a working flour mill.

Here are a few pictures of the different floors of the building - the pictures didn't turn out the greatest because we weren't allowed to use a flash.

There were actually two fires in this mill - one in 1878 and another one in 1991.

On May 2, 1878, a spark ignited airborne flour dust within the mill, creating an explosion that demolished the Washburn A and killed 14 workers instantly. The ensuing fire resulted in the deaths of four more people, destroyed five other mills, and reduced Minneapolis’s milling capacity by one third. Known as the Great Mill Disaster, the explosion made national news and served as a focal point that led to reforms in the milling industry. In order to prevent the buildup of combustible flour dust, ventilation systems and other precautionary devices were installed in mills throughout the country. (Wikipedia)

These are the only pieces of equipment that survived the fires.

From the 9th floor of the Mill, there were amazing views of the Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls.

Amaya and Steve

It was amazing to see how much destruction the fires caused.

After the Flour Tower tour, we went back to the interactive exhibits and learned about the power and force of water.

We also went to the Baking Lab to try a sample of bread and there was a small station set up for kids to play with playdough.

All the different types of flour.

Here are some replicas of the type of equipment that was used in the mill in the 1880s.

This is a middlings purifier used to remove the husks from the kernels of wheat.

A dust collector used to prevent the buildup of combustible flour dust.

A roller mill used to grind the grain.

We continued the tour outside to the Charles H. Bell Ruin Courtyard.

Again, we were amazed at the destruction.

Then we went across the street to walk along the Mississippi River to see the Mill Ruins Park and get a closer view of St. Anthony Falls.

Who knew a flour museum could be so interesting?