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Jan 6, 2011

Christmas in Minnesota - Part One!

Bear with me, there's LOTS of photos!  I always feel the need to post them all since we live so far from family.  An extra reason this year is that one of my brothers is still in Afghanistan and I know he will appreciate them.

The first half of our vacation we spent in my home state of Minnesota (oops, that's 15 mins over the border in WI now... I'll never be okay with my parents being cheeseheads now that they moved to town!).  I'm from Southeastern MN, where the farmland is rolling hills and grew up near the river bluffs of the Mississippi.  We are about an hour southeast of the Twin Cities of Mpls/St. Paul.  Heaven, if you ask me!

When I see these, I feel most at home.  Pardon me while I subject you to blurry barns taken while driving at sunrise!  They are among my favorite subjects for photos but we were in a hurry and couldn't stop driving so they were taken from a moving car!  Here's an idea of exactly what my part of the state looks like: 

Someday, I hope to be able to have enough time and the right equipment and knowledge to do these farms justice, I just love them.

Arriving at my parents' house, my kids were relieved to see one undecorated tree waiting for them!  (I didn't do a tree since we were leaving VA!)

Hubby promptly got to work shoveling my mom & dad's deck.  Mom might be horrified if y'all thought she asked him to do that, so I'll tell you that I suggested it and he jumped at the chance!  He would much rather be doing "real work" outdoors on dry land than at sea!

Hubby putting his new boots into action, he loved the ones I picked out, thankfully!

Finn and Loch got their wish of being able to do a Gingerbread House, even if it was a kit!  Mom and I kind of gave each other that look when Loch said he wanted to "bake" one... HA!  But I totally respect the heck out of you moms that have the patience for that!

Loch found the bag Santa had dropped into the backyard.... he took issue with the gas fireplace and wasn't fooled for a minute that Santa would use a "fake" fireplace!  The kid is a wood snob already...

Daddy and Finn dug a fantastic snow cave in my parents' yard... it was about 4x4 feet!

My adorable niece!

I really liked what showed up in this photo, it was by accident since I was only going for a shot of the snow.  Taken from my mom's front window, you can see the Welcome Home sign for hubby in the front yard along with her Blue Star flag in the window for my brother in Afghanistan and the candle in the window for their safe return.  I think the candle thing was unintentional, but it made for a great photo!

Who remembers my obsession with Cheese Curds?  I went down to the local Creamery (yep, the actual creamery has a shop!) on Christmas Eve Day and was pleased to see that not only were they open, I had to park way up the street in this tiny town and walk in... what a crowd!  Lots of people picking up fresh curds for parties and gifts.  Lots of people were back in their hometown for the holidays and it wouldn't be the same without curd from the proclaimed "Cheese Curd Capital of the World"!

Fresh curds come out at 11 am sharp daily still warm and squeaky!

Established in 1910... here it is:

This is my youngest brother... all I have to say is "really"?  LOL....

 This photo made me laugh since I remember my parents tsk-tsking the commercialism and piles of presents under some trees when I was little.... HA!  Look what happens when you become a grandparent - you need to trim the branches several feet up I think to fit all that stuff under there!

My niece with the blankie I knitted for her

And here she is again... if you listen you can hear her exclaim "perfect!" when she opens the gift from her grandparents - her current obsession is horses :)

My dogs can sleep anywhere!

 Gosh it's hard to tell that Sprocket is a dog in every photo I take of her!  She is one strange speckled specimen.  Here she has her knitted neckwarmer and new stuffed loon she got for Christmas :)

These are most of the usual suspects on my dad's side on Christmas, my brothers and cousin are missing, I guess I am too - I was taking the photo!  Mom's on the left in the green shirt, dad's on the far right in the fleece vest.

Random but very cool... near my parents' house, there is a guy that taps into the artesian wells on his property at Christmas and then spotlights them.  You have to drive way out into the sticks, then you round a bend on a gravel road and WOW!  This covers about 2-3 acres, I was only able to get this much from my angle.

Plenty of snow for our nightly walks-  it was up to my waist!

I just love icicles, as long as it's not my house LOL!  This is my brother's house.  They bought a wonderful bungalow in Saint Paul.  They owned a smaller one in Saint Paul and then upgraded to a bit bigger since I'm going to be an aunt again soon, yay!  This one has much of the work already done and it is just a fantastic example of the beautiful old homes that are available in old cities.  Sadly, Virginia Beach didn't even exist til the 60s pretty much so there is no "architecture" to speak of.

I was in soup heaven all through vacation.  Dinner at my brother and wife's house included delicious soup and homemade bread.  It was very yummy and my brother is a pretty good cook, who knew?

Nothing matches the beauty and coziness of an older home during the holidays.  It helps that they don't do tv or have electronic devices all over the place, their home is so welcoming.  I probably looked like a child wanting a puppy while we were getting the grand tour!

A "real" kitchen!  I fell in love with this, it had a great farmhouse feel, and they have red countertops which were fantastic.

And who wouldn't drool over this?  This is the pass-through from the dining room to the kitchen, a lovely walk thru pantry with built ins and glass cabinets.

 Upstairs, I was in love with my niece's bedroom - what little girl wouldn't want this?

Complete with a nook under the eaves for playing, and built-ins.... oh, this place is lovely, and I think they will be very happy there.

Finally, the first part of our vacation ended with a great shot of the cousins.  This is it, as my brother and myself are the only ones on mine or hubby's side with kids right now. They boys think she is the greatest thing ever and I can tell they are going to be looking out for her when they get older!

And oh yeah...that's Marley & Sprocket's cousin - "Sonny"  :)

Part Two to come soon, that's the part where we left family behind and headed "north-er" to have our first vacation that didn't involve the rest of my family.  I felt bad about cutting our time short with them, but we really needed to have some self-planned time with the kids and the outdoors.  If you are military you know what I'm talking about, every vacation is a whirlwind of driving and staying in your parents' house all the time and we rarely get to just go somewhere "for the heck of it" because it means using up your leave time and sacrificing family time. Luckily, my parents were a military couple too so they understand.  We just decided to combine the two, and it turned out great!

Happy Birthday Finnegan!

Bear with me while I flood you with photos of my "baby", in no particular order...

Finnegan is 6 years old today, Happy Birthday Punky-Chunky!

The first person I think of on the kids' birthdays is actually not the kid, believe it or not - it's this wonderful lady!  After some 5-6 odd surgeries not including C-sections, this lady's surgical skill and willingness to try experimental techniques are the reason why I was ever able to meet my boys at all.  I will never be able to express exactly what this feels like, lucky for me I think she knows, since she was there at the very beginning to share the tears, fears, and joy all her patients experience.  Thank you doesn't quite begin to cover it...

Always the "happy baby"

The "mullet" phase

Mullet/Fu Man Chu 

 First surgery

Playing dress up with daddy's gear

Finn really lucked out in the brother department!

His first fishing pole and tackle box

the cleavage shot... let's just say he was a bit chunky as a baby!

Me taking Finn on his first paddle

By age 4 he's got the whole "don't stand up in the canoe/kayak" thing down

 How many kids do you know who will eat sushi?  It probably helped that he got to help make it!

First "at the cabin" photo, gotta love the dirty face!

Daddy's first deployment he wore this hat all the time

My Chunky Monkey

Went through his "first deployment" at age 3 and did it like an old pro!

Mommy's first "oh my" moment... I might be in for it in a few years!  I love how he just sauntered by as if no one would notice!

Kinder "Gardener" 

Who could forget when I subjected him to the horrors of a bike ride this summer while he was "in training" for snowshoeing?

 First time sledding thanks to Aunt Sarah's big hill!

Already starting to look like a big guy with dreams of quads and camo!

He already is starting to prefer Bass Pro and Cabela's to Toys-R-Us for his Christmas List

 All boy, dropping sand crabs on mommy knitting in the beach chair

 Everything was so darn funny to him!

We've progressed to him being experienced enough to go out and harvest what is ready on his own!

 Finn's first funnel cake

His first bike, the start of him separating from me...

He has become quite the ladies' man in the past 2 years, they can't stay away!

 Finn's first sleep-away camp

 he's always willing to be my knitting model, even when it's pink - although he growled at me!

 Here he is as of last week - doesn't need mommy or Aunt Sarah to go sledding anymore, I thought I was going to faint watching him go flying down the hill!

All my "training" paid off - this kid snowshoed 4 miles last week and didn't even look back for me once or complain, he had a smile the whole time

I feel like I should be sad he's growing up so fast, but I'm not - I really enjoy them becoming so independent and watching their personalities develop.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm an "older mom" LOL.... I would like to hurry up and get them sufficient enough so we can all go do hiking/outdoor activities together before I need a walker!

So many posts floating around in my head, but I would be a "bad mom" if I didn't to a birthday post!  I should have a few vacation posts up soon and then am eager to get to posting about my resolutions and then about the Spring Garden planning.  Someone should have warned me how hard it would be to get back to reality after a long vacation!