Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Crafting

It's almost Christmas! This year the girls and I found a really fun and easy craft project. It's probably all over Pinterest but I don't have a Pinterest account, so I feel special. Please don't burst my bubble. :) We decorated mugs and jars with Sharpie paint pens!

Here are some of our tools:

We picked up Sharpie brand paint pens at Home Depot, some scrapbooking letter stickers at Michael's, and plain mugs at the dollar store.

We stuck the stickers on the mugs and jars, and then used the paint pens to draw around them. For the jars, we also put stencil-type simple designs on paper on the inside of the jar, then traced it on the outside.

Once we had the outlines, we filled in the rest of the design. The dots look really cute, or you can color it in, or freehand draw... whatever you want! Once your design is done you bake it to set the design... start with the jars/mugs on a baking sheet in a cold oven. For glass, bake 20 minutes at 300; for ceramic, 30 minutes at 350. Then let it cool and you're all set! I took one to work yesterday with my breakfast in it and washed it afterwards and no paint came off! I think you could probably run it through a dishwasher, but I don't have one (aside from Aaron) so I can't say for sure. :)

Don't they look great?? Super easy and fun!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekend update

Long time no blog! Life has been even a little busier than usual around here... hence the long silence. In early November I took a new position at the bank, so work's been keeping me busy! It's a lateral move, but with more growth potential than my old position. I've also changed locations; instead of working in downtown Minneapolis, I'm in a suburban location now. I'm very happy with the change, but there's definitely a learning curve/adjustment period that's been taking up a lot of time and energy. Hence the lack of blog posts!

We had a great Thanksgiving at Gramma Liisa's house, and are now getting ready for Christmas! Every year FACA (Finnish-American Cultural Activities) puts on a Joulu (Christmas) celebration, which was this past Saturday.
There's a Joulutori (Christmas marketplace), children's Christmas movies and activities, a delicious dinner, and a sing-along of Finnish Christmas carols and songs. This year, a group of kids from Suomi-koulu performed songs and dances during the dinner and the Joululaulut - including Maisie!
Isn't she the cutest little Joulu tonttu (Christmas elf)? And Grandma Liisa made the vest and skirt she wore - she got a lot of compliments on them!

She had a lot of fun dancing and singing - she really loves performing for an audience!

On Sunday morning, I realized we hadn't been to the Science Museum in a while, and their butterflies exhibit was closing soon, so we had to go check it out! Maisie's not a big fan of any kind of insects, so Ella and I went to the butterfly house without her and Aaron.

There were a ton of Monarchs in the butterfly house, and the Omni theater movie is also about Monarchs - their life cycle and migration. It was really interesting and I learned a lot from it!

Ella is a huge fan of all kinds of insects, so she was happy to let them crawl all over her. She's very careful not to touch their wings and is very gentle. She loves all kinds of insects, and has talked about wanting to be a scientist who discovers new kinds of spiders when she grows up.

So, that was our weekend in a nutshell! How was yours?

Monday, November 03, 2014


Maisie is eight years old today!

We celebrated her birthday with local family yesterday, which was super fun! Auntie Laura and Dylan hosted us, Gramma Liisa, and Jim. We had dinner followed by a beautiful cake that Gramma Liisa made. Maisie loved her presents - lots of clothes, all of which she liked (everyone seems to have her sparkly tops & knit pants style down!), a beautifully fuzzy blankie and cute knit owls from Gramma Jo, and a book she'd been wanting from Jim.

8-year-old Maisie is delightful. Her favorite things right now include fencing...

She absolutely LOVES fencing! As a leftie, she's got a natural advantage. I think she'll keep up with it for a while - we just finished our first three-month session and she's ready to go back for more!

She loves reading and writing...

Maisie always seems to have a journal with her, and is constantly drawing pictures and writing about things that she sees. Some of them she shares with me, other things she keeps private. She also loves to read - we're currently into book 6 of the Harry Potter series! She's also really into the Emily Windsnap series. She likes to bring a book wherever she goes, and will happily read to herself, or read to Ella and keep them both entertained!

Maisie loves Ella...

Yeah, they do fight sometimes. But most of the time they're each other's best friends. Sometimes on the weekend, they wake up and tiptoe out into the living room to watch Netflix or build with Legos before Aaron and I get up. They're never really all that quiet, so we usually do wake up. But we stay in bed and snooze and let them play. It's pretty sweet.

She loves her Finnish dance group, Pikku Kisarit...

Kind of random, right? But she absolutely loves this activity. The Finnish-American community here in the Twin Cities is really active and a great group of people, so I'm glad that she's having so much fun. She had a great week at Salolampi last summer, and is excited to go back for more. And of course, I think it helps that she has a Finnish pen pal! They send each other little gifts and letters. It's adorable.

At 8, Maisie is growing into a delightful person. I can see the beginnings of the young woman she is becoming, and I am excited to see who she is. Even now, though, Maisie brings a lot of joy into our lives. She's smart and funny, caring and considerate, enthusiastic and creative. We can't imagine life without her!

Monday, October 20, 2014


Every October, the Minnesota teacher's union has a conference, so all the Minnesota public schools are closed for three days. Even though the union changed its name to Education Minnesota a number of years ago, the break is still mostly called "MEA," after the union's old name, Minnesota Educators' Association.

About a month ago, one of my coworkers went to Washington, D.C. with her family. I was super jealous because I knew they'd have a great time with their kids seeing all the great museums and sights. I wanted to do that, too! But then I thought, hey, we could go to Chicago over MEA! So, we did! The girls were SUPER excited about the trip, and were counting down for days. On Wednesday morning Ella woke up at 5:45, saying "It's time to go to CHICAAAAAAAAAAGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!"

We'd decided to fly, instead of driving. I found super inexpensive tickets on Spirit - I'm sure it ended up costing less than gas + roadside food. Plus, that way it only took us an hour to get to Chicago! The girls were excited about their first airplane ride.
(Technically not Maisie's first, but since she last flew when she was not quite 2, she didn't remember it at all.)

Ella was more excited than Maisie, who was super concerned about her ears popping and asked a bunch of questions. What does it sound like? why does it happen? will it hurt???? The actual ear-popping experience was pretty anticlimactic once it actually happened.

I know a lot of people have negative things to say about Spirit, but for what it's worth, both our flights were great. Their thing is the "bare fare" - your ticket gets you and one personal item from Point A to Point B. Nothing else is free... no free drinks, no free carry-on, no free nothing. The personal item has to be able to fit under the seat in front of you, so it can't be larger than 16" x 12" x 14". That was plenty big enough for us! The girls each had a backpack, I carried an old diaper bag, and Aaron carried a messenger bag. We filled them up but it was totally enough room for us for everything we needed for the trip. Aside from that, the flight attendants were sweet to the girls and the flights were on time. No complaints from us, and we'll definitely fly them again!

Once we landed, we hopped on the blue line train...

And headed off to meet my mom's cousin Cathy at her office! She and her husband Jim live on the south side of Chicago, and they very kindly offered to let us stay with them during our trip. We were happy to accept! We dropped off our bags at Cathy's office, and walked over to the Art Institute!

We only had an hour and a half there before they closed, but even in that short amount of time we saw lots of beautiful and famous artworks.

After that, we stopped by a comic shop where the girls picked out some comic books. Then it was time for dinner, and back to Cathy and Jim's for bedtime. Everyone was exhausted!

The next day we had great plans. First we went to the Shedd Aquarium!

We saw dolphins and Beluga whales, a giant puffer fish, seahorses, an octopus... so many interesting animals! Ella spent a long time at the tidal pool where you could touch starfish and sea urchins.

We spent a few hours there, stepped outside to admire the view...

Then we walked over to the Field Museum!

There we saw lots of cool exhibits. Aaron's favorites were the Hall of Gems and the jades. Ella's was the insects, and Maisie's was the ancient Egyptian artifacts. After a few hours it was back to the Shedd for more!

That evening we met up with Cathy, Jim, and their granddaughter Iris at Giordano's for AMAZING Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Iris is 2 and completely adorable. Ella was completely smitten, and I think it was mutual. :)

Friday may have been the girls' favorite day of the trip. We waved goodbye to Jim and Cathy, hopped on a train and then a bus, and landed in Schaumberg. We were going to Legoland!

We got there a little early, so we had a little down time at Starbucks.

Once we were there, we were off to the races! There were awesome Lego sculptures everywhere...

There were rides, and play areas, and of course a store.

I recently re-read Thinking, Fast and Slow, which discusses brain processes and how your brain can be "primed" for certain activities by seeing certain words. So, the prominence of the word SHOP made me laugh. It was literally the only word on this play structure. GO SHOP NOW! EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP!

Maisie enjoyed building with the giant soft blocks - this is her Christmas town.

Ella liked the Duplo pool!

We were leaving pretty early Saturday morning, so we spent Friday night in a lovely hotel (O'Hare Renaissance) right by O'Hare. We swam! We watched cartoons! We went to bed really early because we were all tired! And then we were home by noon on Saturday, so we had most of the weekend to relax before heading to work/school Monday morning. :)

So, it was a very full three days and lots of fun. The girls are great little travelers - there was a bunch of hurry up & wait which is sort of the nature of public transportation, and it gets tiring, but they were very patient. They did great. I should add that we got our admission tickets through the Go Chicago card, which was really convenient. I had them electronically delivered so it was right on my phone. Super convenient and definitely a money-saver, plus you get to jump the lines!

Thank you Cathy and Jim for your hospitality!

We are already thinking about our next trip. The Museum of Science & Industry and the Children's Museum are definitely on our list... it turns out we all love visiting Chicago!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

State Fair 2014

The Minnesota State Fair is one of my favorite, favorite events of the summer... and I'm not alone in that! It's the largest fair in the country by average daily attendance, and the second-largest by total attendance (Texas' fair draws more people, but it's also twice as long!). I always like to go at least twice, once with the girls and once on my own so I can spend as much time as I like in the Creative Activities building checking out all the crafts. :)

This year, the girls and I went on opening day, joined by Gramma Liisa!
It turned out to be a great day to go. It was kind of cool and cloudy, which was a pleasant change from years past when it was over 90 degrees. It also rained earlier in the morning, but the rain had totally stopped by 9. It was a perfect day for walking around outside!

There are a couple things we always make sure to do at the State Fair. Ella particularly loves the butterfly house.

Ella actually loves all things insect and creepy-crawly. She handles millipedes, beetles, worms, and butterflies equally carefully. Maisie, on the other hand, does NOT. Unlike Ella, who is planning on being a "bug scientist" when she grows up, Maisie says that butterflies (and all insects) creep her out. When we were planning our activities, Maisie insisted that she was NOT going in the butterfly house, thankyouverymuch! So, Gramma and Ella went... until Maisie changed her mind.

We were so proud of her for going in! She wore her hat the whole time so they wouldn't land in her hair. But she didn't swat at the butterflies!

Unlike the butterfly house, EVERYONE loves the Giant Slide - me included! It's hard to get a picture of someone going down the slide (or take one while you're sliding), so the girls always like to pose with these cutouts near the bottom of the slide.

The carousel is near the giant slide... it's another favorite of the girls.

So sweet!

Another family favorite is "Little Farm Hands." It's an interactive thing where the kids pretend to be farmers, and walk through a series of exhibits/activities. They get to plant seeds, harvest crops, feed chickens & collect eggs, etc. They also drive tractors around.

This year was probably the last year that Maisie'll get to drive the tractors... you have to be below a certain height, and she was right at the edge of it this year.

You can see how small the tractor looks... she actually had a hard time pedaling because her legs were too long for it.

We stopped by the AFL/CIO and DFL booths...

I feel woefully underdressed next to the First Lady.

And of course ate a ton of yummy food.

I think Ella ate two ears of corn BY HERSELF!

We had a great day with Gramma Liisa at the State Fair. At one point Maisie said, "when I'm a teenager I'm going to come to the fair by myself with just my friends!" And yeah, the girls probably will be doing that before too long. So for now, I'm happy that they're not too cool to have fun hanging out with me. :)

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Chris & Kim's Wedding

On Saturday, August 23, Aaron's oldest brother Chris got married to his longtime partner Kim. Lucky for us, Kim's family lives in Eden Prairie (a suburb of Minneapolis), so the wedding was local for us!

Most of Aaron's family got into town later Thursday, so we didn't see them then. (Instead, the girls and I spent the day at the State Fair with Gramma Liisa, which will be its own post!) On Friday morning, Jason (Aaron's youngest sister's husband) was looking for something to do with their older son Sullivan. So, why not go to the State Fair with me and the girls?!??
Pre-Tilt-a-whirl selfie. We all had fun even though Sully looks REALLY apprehensive!
After all, I'm almost always up for a trip to the fair! :) We had a lot of fun riding rides, eating yummy food, looking at animals... Jason was especially impressed. I think they're planning a trip up to Minnesota next year, so they can spend some real time at our awesome fair. YAY! Friday evening was the rehearsal dinner in a local park, and then home after a long day so we'd be ready for the wedding!

Saturday we arrived at the wedding venue around 12:30 for family pictures. Everyone liked the girls' fancy dresses (especially the girls themselves).

The wedding began at 2:00, and was over by 2:08. Nice work Chris and Kim - short and sweet! :) The girls had fun playing with cousins... there were whole packs of little kids running around so there was never a shortage of playmates.

We got them to sit down for dinner, which marked a first for us - our kids were (more or less) ready for a kids' table! The grownups - us, Aaron's siblings & their spouses - sat at one table, with the kids all at the next table over. It was surprisingly successful for a first kids' table attempt!

Then, it was time for dancing! First Chris and Kim had their first dance...
Then everyone joined in.
That's Maya, Ella, and Maisie twirling...
and whirling!
The girls would've liked to have danced all night, but it had been a long few days so we left relatively early. At least, it seemed early at the time... but they both collapsed into tears over nothing much at all during the car ride home, so I really think we made the right choice to leave when we did. :)

After a good night's sleep, we were ready for MORE cousin time on Sunday... this time with the Dieter Shedecks at the Mall of America!
Ella has a penny on her nose, because why not?
We spent a few hours hanging out at the MOA with Clare, Kyle, Maya, and Rowan riding on rides, eating lunch, and doing a little shopping. It was an especially nice sort of split, because Maisie and Maya are so close in age and size, and so are Ella and Rowan. So, while we spent some time doing things with all 4 kids, there were a number of rides where the "big girls" would split off.
Waiting for the log ride...
Congratulations Chris and Kim! We had a wonderful time at your wedding, and the whole weekend. What a beautiful reason for family to come together to celebrate!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Key Log Rolling Invitational

I have been getting a lot of questions about log rolling since I mentioned it in the last blog post! So, here's the scoop.

About two months ago, a friend of mine mentioned that she'd been taking log rolling classes at the Midtown YWCA (where we are also members), and I should join her. I was like, log rolling??? I told Aaron about this and he said that he'd seen people rolling while he was with the girls at their swim lessons, and it looked like fun. The member's price for a class was pretty cheap ($27 for a four-class session), so I decided what the heck, I'd give it a shot.

Turns out, it's really fun! My first class was terrible - I could hardly stay on the log at all. But at the end of the class, my stomach hurt from laughing so much. I was positively hooked! And I wasn't the only one... Maisie and Dylan spent the whole 45 minutes of my class session hanging off the rope that separated our class space from the free swim area, watching and cheering for the rollers.

When it was time to register for the next session, I asked Maisie and Dylan if they wanted to sign up. They gave a resounding YES! And it turns out, they're much better at it than I am. David, our instructor, told me that kids always do better than adults do... they have a lower center of gravity, so they're more stable on the log. Plus they weigh less, so the log doesn't move quite as much under them. We had the first class of the new session yesterday (the kids' second session/5th class, my 3rd session/9th class) and they've blown me out of the water. My P.R. is around 10 seconds, while Maisie's at 18.47 and Dylan's is over 27 seconds!

So anyway, as a part of Aquatennial's Beach Bash, there was a log rolling tournament this weekend at Lake Calhoun. It was sponsored by Keylog, a company that does classes and also manufactures and sells a hollow fiberglass log (which is much more portable than a real log that weighs upwards of 400 pounds). If you haven't seen it, MPR did a nice profile of the family that runs Keylog... you can find it here.

I competed in the adult prelims on Saturday afternoon/evening, and didn't make it too far... but had a lot of fun anyway. :) I discovered that the Keylog log is REALLY different than what we're used to rolling on at the YWCA. The fiberglass surface is much more slippery than the indoor-outdoor carpet that our logs are covered with. It took some time for me to get used to it... and by the time I did, I'd lost my matches. :)

With my experience in mind, we all made sure to show up early on Sunday morning so that Maisie and Dylan could get some practice time in with the Keylogs!

Instead of rolling against someone, as the adults did, the kids were doing speed rolling - seeing how many complete revolutions they could get in a minute, first with a front step, then with a back step.

One other feature of Keylog logs is that they have removable fins, which look like the paddle wheels on a paddleboat. They slow the log down, so it doesn't roll as fast, so a beginning roller doesn't get frustrated and quit. But with speed rolling, it presents a challenge... you want to stay up there, but you have to be able to get the log around!

Both Maisie and Dylan ended up choosing to use one fin. Maisie started with two, but it turned out she was then too light to spin the log at all.

And at the end of the contest... she won a blue ribbon!

She was very proud of herself, and I was proud of her too! There were a lot of people watching, and it would've been easy to get nervous about it. But she did a great job!

As it happened, only five kids registered and they were all in different classes, so everyone won a blue ribbon. :) I'm glad it worked out that way... while Maisie and Dylan have only been rolling for a month, the other three kids have been rolling for several years.

We can't wait for next year's tournament! And in the mean time, we'll keep rolling and practicing and improving. The competition won't know what hit 'em! :)