Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The School Bell Rings

Today was Anders' first day of school--well, first full day as he had "orientation" yesterday morning. He likes it. Which is good.

It's a new school, entirely new people for him (though there are several students he knows from church) and a new teaching method. He got into a Montessori school. It's a charter school--free for us--a block from our house. We also applied to get into a regular public school (in Minneapolis he has several school options, and we had to apply to get into them). He got into both the local public school and the charter school. We thought we'd try out the Montessori since we had the opportunity--and several people have said it would be a good fit for Anders.

So far, he's enjoying it. I'm not entirely sure how it all works yet (we'll do a classroom observation sometime later), but he likes the classroom with all the learning tools. He's making friends. He enjoyed the full day and getting to eat at school. He didn't even seem to miss riding the bus. At the end of the day, he gave it a thumbs up.

I guess it's going to be time to deal with my oldest being gone all day. It's going to bring some changes here. But change is life...

Growing Up Too Fast

Yesterday, my three-and-a-half-year old told me (while looking at a "Little Critter" book) that he loves girls. The day before my six-year old told me that he was thinking about marriage. I don't know that I'm ready to have those talks already!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

For Better or Worse

On the way home from church tonight, my six-year old announced, "I am already beginning to think about marrying."

I told one of the fathers of one of the girls (there were two specific ones mentioned). He replied, "No worries.
I've told all my girls they can date when they're 24."

I'm sure it'll all work itself out. Of course, my nearly four-year old also declared that he's going to marry the same girl. I hope this doesn't turn into a bloody feud some day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hanging on to Summer

Next week my oldest will be in 1st grade. Summer is ending. Not soon enough for some, but too quickly for me. I think because we bought a house and moved in June and my wife had a 3-week intensive class in July we just didn't have the time to enjoy summer as fully. The only camping trips we took were with my parents--and my wife didn't get to go with us. No vacation for us either (usually its a camping trip if anything).

And I'm not ready for my son to start school yet because there were things I was hoping to get to do with him this summer: take him to more museums, work more on his bike riding skills, more trips to the beach.

The start of school just seemed to creep up on us. And the weeks before it have been full. In addition to the regular things, there have been all sorts of before school meetings and events. Even the weekends seem busy. Sigh...

At least I like fall.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

River Rats

One of the things we discovered shortly after we moved to our new neighborhood was weekly water-skiing shows on the Mississippi River. Each Thursday night at 7pm a group of well-practiced amateurs named "The River Rats" do a free show (they do take donations to help with their costs) along the river just south of Broadway.

There's usually a pretty good crowd along the banks and an announcer details the stunts going on as well as filling in with "skits" in between acts as the next set of skiers are preparing. This year's theme is "Ski-vivor," so they've had different skits going along with the reality show concept.

The boys just like watching the acts--especially the jumps and pyramids. And it's outside, so no one cares too much if they spend time rolling down the hillside or dancing with the music.

They've only got one show left (can't believe the end of summer is so near), so check them out if you get a chance. It's a fun time--and you can't beat a free family outing!

Friday, August 13, 2010

BLT Pizza

I don't like to turn the oven on a lot in the summer--but I had been wanting to try making a BLT pizza, and since some rain brought cooler weather today (and the fact that we had garden tomatoes and I had purchased some bacon), I gave it a try.

I used my pizza crust recipe.
Bake the crust for about 5 minutes (I just put it in the oven while it is preheating to about 400 degrees)

For the "sauce" I used a mayo-based spread:
1 c. mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
2/3 c. mayo
2 T. fresh basil, chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed
Mix all the above ingredients and spread on the crust.

Then I layered:
1 sliced garden tomato
6 sliced of bacon, crumbled
roughly 2 cups of spinach leaves
mozzarella cheese

Bake at 400 for roughly 15 minutes (until cheese is browned)

*The mayo-spread came from a recipe (Pampered Chef, possibly) that just used tomatoes on top with another cup of mozzarella sprinkled over them. We've used it with a variety of veggies. The kids will often eat a bit of it (though we usually have a second "regular" pizza) that they eat more.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Music in the Park

One of our favorite activities in the summer (though we haven't gotten around to doing it as much this summer) is attending free concerts in the parks. We can't afford to go to many of the concerts that come to town at the event centers, but we can afford free ones! There are many around the Twin Cities. Most suburbs have a concert once a week in the summer at some venue. Minneapolis and St. Paul have several different venues. We end up going to Lake Harriet all the time since they have a concert every day of the week (we don't have to plan ahead!). There is also a playground and a swimming beach a short walk from the concert site. We often take a picnic supper, spread a blanket out on the grassy knoll that surrounds the seating area and enjoy the evening. The boys like to hear the music, plus they can run around while it's going on (they like to roll down the knoll). There is always a variety of musical styles, and we haven't been to one we didn't enjoy (not that all were great, but we still enjoyed them). Plus, my wife and I can get a pseudo-date in as the boys are pretty good about staying nearby, but occupying themselves.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fare For All

Earlier this summer I was asked if I would be interested in a gift certificate for Fare For All so that I could learn about it and pass that on to you, my readers. I'm not one to sell out, but at the same time if I can put food on the table (literally!) by writing this blog, then I welcome any offers.

Some friends of ours had volunteered at Fare For All's warehouse earlier this year and had encouraged people to check it out. We actually stopped by once, but we had just stocked up on food, so we didn't purchase anything.

Fare For All is a part of the Emergency Foodshelf Network, but they operate to provide food savings to everyone (no income restrictions). They have many sites around Minnesota--including several in the Twin Cities Metro area. They have several options: Traditional Fare For All (pre-order and pre-pay, pick up once on month usually), Fare For All Express (no need to pre-order, just stop in and pick up what you want on certain days), and their warehouse (open on Mondays).

Fare For All offers several package options:
Regular Pack $17
– The Regular Pack contains 2-3 fresh fruits, 4-5 fresh vegetables and 3-4 frozen meat items.
Meat Only Pack $12
– The Meat Only pack includes a variety of 3-4 meat items such as beef, chicken, fish, or pork.
Light Pack $12
– The Light Pack features 1 non-pork meat items and an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Vegetarian Pack $10
– The Vegetarian pack contains a generous amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, often accompanied by a dry food item such as beans or pasta.
Family Pack $20
– The Family pack contains only non-perishable staple items such as vegetable oil, flour, sugar, canned fruits and vegetables, rice, pasta, and boxed dinners.

We used our gift certificate to get the Regular Pack. Our meat pack included a package of chicken thighs, ground turkey, ham and lunch meat. The produce included potatoes, carrots, lemons, apples, plums, celery, cherry tomatoes and onions. We usually do our grocery shopping at Aldi, but compared to regular grocery stores, these packs provide a good value. It definitely provided us with lot meat we don't normally buy.

The warehouse also offers ala carte options to purchase. We picked up some additional meat at really good prices. They are also well stocked on canned veggies, rice and beans, a variety of produce and other various options. In addition they had several free items available with any purchase (we came home with two loaves of bread, a couple of head of cabbage, a few packages of notebooks and a few other various items.

Fare For All offers definite savings. With all their locations, they're definitely worth checking out.
Visit their website for more information (including locations): Fare For All
They also have a blog with recipes, ocassional coupons and other information (including stories of their many volunteers): Fare For All Blog

Monday, August 2, 2010

Splash Pads

I'm compiling a list of splash pads I've discovered around Minneapolis and the near west suburbs. Minneapolis, especially, has free wading pools in many of their parks as well, but I'm just noting parks with splash pads for the time being (though I am including some of their wading pools with fountains and other splash-pad type sprinklers). There are also plenty of other water parks around, but I'm limiting this list to free ones. I'm sure there are more out there--let me know what you've found. Here's the start of my list:

Oak Hill Park Splash Pad, St. Louis Park
Rhode Island & 34th St
By far the best free splash pad in the Twin Cities (that I've been to, at least). It has a number of water elements; the largest I have found so far. It also has good playgrounds (one for older kids as well as a toddler playground) and restrooms inside the park building.
*I've heard recently (August 2011) that they may be charging for non-residents of the city. I haven't been there myself to verify this yet.

Manor Park, Robbinsdale
Lowry & Abbott Ave, behind North Memorial Hospital
A nice little splash pad with several water elements that are staggered in operation. A nice little playground and tennis court are also located there.

North Mississippi Regional Park, Minneapolis
53rd N & E Lyndale
Water sprays out of a large "boulder" in the middle of a wading pool. The park also has many trails, a nature center, plenty of picnicking areas and indoor restrooms.

Cleveland Park, Minneapolis
Just off Lowry at Queen, behind Lucy Laney Craft School
A zero-entry wading pool with a few elements in the pool. My kids like to be able to "swim" while playing in the water.

Bohanon Park, Minneapolis
49th Ave & Bryant Ave N
A wading pool with three pipes sticking up int he middle that spray water in various manners.

Lewis Park, St. Paul
900 Marion St
St. Paul's first splash pad, new in 2011. It's small, but gets the job done. It is surrounded by a fun, new playground with artificial turf around it.

Miller Park, Eden Prairie
8208 Eden Prairie Road