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#GoTeamUSA

Hello!

As I cringe in dismay over my lack of time and inability to squeeze in regular blog postings, I realize that you just do the best you can. I have a lot of normal stuff (food, etc…) that I could catch you up on but why not race along to the more FUN stuff, right??

The opening ceremonies for the SPECIAL OLYMPICS WORLD SUMMER GAMES are just TWO days away!!! I found out they are televising the opening ceremonies on ESPN Saturday night so you can bet that’s what I’ll be doing – kleenex box in hand.

Alex, my youngest brother, was on the US team for the Winter Games in South Korea two years ago where he placed 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in division 1 snowshoe. He needs just one pesky medal to round out his collection and he’ll have three more chances in the Summer Games in LA.

This past weekend was a whirlwind of interviews, send-offs, and packing. Once again he’s been outfitted with a huge collection of Team USA apparel. He’s set with running clothes for life!

His co-workers planned a surprise send-off for him on his last day in the office. They made a gigantic banner, decked themselves out in red, white, and blue, and sported necklaces, waved flags, and celebrated merrily.

send off

The WI delegation (isn’t that crazy-awesome?) convened in Madison this week to meet their travel coaches and get ready to fly to California.

leaving WI

Yesterday morning I was standing in line at the check-out counter in our office’s cafeteria and spotted this familiar face on the front page of the local paper!!!

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It was a phenomenal article and an awesome picture to boot! I tell you – every time I see something in print or watch an interview on television… I get tears and goosebumps. It’s surreal to see your own family doing such amazing things, especially with all the things Alex has had to overcome to be the athlete he is today. <3

All the athletes arrived in San Diego Tuesday and yesterday was a day filled with celebrations. They had a huge parade for the athletes and a evening cook-out. We’re not over in Cali yet and are relying on others to post pictures and keep us up-to-date. But I found two awesome pictures on flicker yesterday.

Here’s Alex with his snowshoe coach from the 2013 Winter Games. Reunion!

Alex and coach

Not that I was really worried about him having a fantastic time… but it’s still great to see that radiant smile!

Alex and friendsas

So opening ceremonies are on ESPN Saturday night.

10,000 meter run is Sunday (7/25)

half marathon is Saturday (8/1) followed right after by the 4×400 meter relay!

My parents and brother Matt fly out tomorrow so they’ll be in the stands for the opening ceremonies. Ben and I will fly out later next week and be there for his two events on Saturday. I wish he didn’t have two events back-to-back (he doesn’t even have time to be there for the half marathon awards ceremony!) but there’s not much we can do about that.

So be prepared for a lot of Olympic news and let’s cheer on all of Team USA as they kick off the Games!!

#GoforGoldAlex

Flight & Hotel Fiascos

Would you share a Diet Coke with me??

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And spelled correctly too… #swoon

So I bet you’re all wondering WHAT I have been up to every waking moment this week. Let me tell you…

Games Countdown

It’s all been work and getting ready to cheer Alex on at the Special Olympics Summer World Games. Opening Ceremonies are next week already!

We’d initially planned to make a long vacation out of it – but the crazy hotel prices caused us to cut back and miss the opening ceremony and his divisioning events but be around for all three of his races.

Oh how things change.

Would you believe last weekend they updated all the events and we found out Alex competes in the 10,000K race the day after the opening ceremony (which we’d miss) and his other two events are back-to-back on Saturday – right after our flight was scheduled to leave. Seriously, not only horribly BAD timing for us but horrible for him too. Who wants to run a half marathon in the world games only to immediately hop into a car to drive across town and compete in a relay!? Terrible, terrible schedule.

So I’ve been scurrying around trying to deal with changing our flights and hotels. Not surprisingly, all the hotels in the area are booked unless you’re interested in one of those fancy rooms at $800+/night. Ouch. We had issues finding our reservation – both the Olympic Housing committee AND the hotel couldn’t find them, and then dealing with all the airline change fees, hotel change fees, etc, etc… I’ve been on the phone each night for multiple hours trying to sort everything out. We have flights but no hotel for our last night there. We’re on the waiting list for 11 hotels and I’m hoping something frees up. Meanwhile, my nerves are frayed and I’m maxed out on the stress meter.

We’re not exactly sure why it seems so disorganized this time around. When the family went to South Korea for the Winter games, it wasn’t this bad. We thought since these games were in the States it would be easier for us. Would you believe Mom and Dad STILL don’t have the flight information OR dates that Alex will be leaving for the Games? Hello people – we’re getting down to the wire here!

Our visit will be pretty short. We fly in on Thursday, have Friday to see the city, watch his back-to-back events on Saturday, and fly back on Sunday. It’ll be a jam-packed weekend!

Meanwhile we’ve been deep cleaning the house this week in preparation for our vacation buddies to arrive!

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If you remember, we met these characters on our honeymoon and then vacationed with them again this past February. We were so excited when they announced they were coming to visit this weekend!! We’re going to take in a baseball game (our team is playing their team!) and hang out. It’ll be awesome. But that means I’ve become a maniac deep cleaning the house. This is the kind of cleaning you do when you’re suffering from insomnia or are getting ready to sell. We’re cleaning out the fridge, dishwasher, oven, scrubbing floors, dusting, vacuuming, etc, etc… A lot of work to get the casa sparkling!

So there you have it. The nightmare travel plans are almost complete. Hopefully a hotel will open up soon and if not, we’ll just pack a pop-up tent and sleep on the streets of LA. Just kidding (kind of)

The Food of the Fourth

Happy Rainy Monday!

We made it through a H O T weekend and the heat wave continues! Last night (this morning?) the rains began and the tornado sirens went off just South of us – crazy for this area! Meanwhile the couple hours of storms provided some much needed water for the grass and trees. Our lawn is getting that mid-summer crispy brown look and I’ve been lugging tons of water to keep the plants and gardens growing.

Since I seem to be perpetually behind, I only just got around to downloading my fun pictures from the 4th of July. Hey, I’m only a week behind. :)

Our holiday was really nice and relaxing. We had planned to meet up with family late afternoon which gave me the morning to work on our food contributions as well as a quick drive around playing Ingress. We tackled some new areas and hard-to-reach game spots since we had a little more time to spare… like hiking up this hill by my parent’s house:

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There’s nothing but a steep walking path up to the pavilion so we trudged up, marked the location in the game, caught our breath, and raced back down. Pretty views!!

We drove home and passed all the construction trucks parked along the highway – they were decked out in tiny American flags! Hard to see because I snapped the picture going 55 down the road but you can make out the little decorations. Isn’t that fun?

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back home we had to pull together our holiday meal contribution. I had one pepper plant that started growing a substantial pepper despite being very, very small. I snapped the pepper off to allow the plant to put more effort into height and not pepper-growing and grabbed a handful of cilantro from the garden. We whipped up more fiesta rice for dinner.

beautiful peppers!

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And a delicious side dish for the family!

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I absolutely LOVE making food knowing that part of it came from the garden. :)

My dinner plate: organic “red white and blue” chicken bratwurst, potato salad, my fiesta rice, and wax beans:

022Ben and I had gone strawberry picking the day before and contributed berries for dessert. It was easy and quick picking. the weather was fantastic (not too sunny or warm) and one of my friends met us there so the three of us chatted while we picked and were done before we knew it!

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Mom made strawberry pie two ways: one with the traditional Jell-O mix and the other using arrowroot as the thickener:

Jell-O

025Arrowroot:

024It was quiet interesting how different the two pies were. The Jell-O was really sweet, as you’d expect, but the arrowroot pie had a beautiful, berry-red color.

Uh-oh, the rain is getting stronger so I should probably head out now and get the garbage cans out to the side of the road. :) Have a great day!!

Blooms in the Garden

One of the things that makes me the most happy about Summer is the abundance of bright, beautiful flowers. Our walk-way leading up to our front door has some interesting landscaping. When we purchased the house 2 years ago, everything seemed to be in good shape but now I’m seeing huge sections of shrubs that have died off and an abundance of growth and weeds. Plenty of work to be done!

But what’s so wonderful right now is being able to open the front door and walk out to an array of pink blossoms. The air smells fresh and my tiny pink tea roses are thriving once more.

017We have only one flower bed on the property and it’s so cramped with flowers that I’ve been doubting everything even pops up. We’ve been here 3 Springs and only this year did I see the start of a daffodil and crocus! I’m more then daunted to be digging up a bunch of bulbs but I’m not sure what else to do at this point.

But here’s the really fun thing. Each Spring the rabbits maul my lilies. Our first Spring I didn’t see ANY lilies bloom in the front bed and last year I saw just two:

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(Last year’s bed had minimal lilies, two large clumps of purple flowers, and two very large bleeding hearts)

Things have changed…

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The purple flowers are almost non-existent and instead I have a bumper crop of beautiful lilies! (and weeds too)

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They’ve become my new obsession. I love how they start out with super vibrant pink tips which then fade as the flower begins to die. They are blooming on a sharp angle because the massive bleeding hearts are taking up so much room. They need to be moved elsewhere.

Lori, please come and fix my landscaping for me. :)

My pink rose bushes are doing really well too. We’ve been working a bit on pruning them each spring and they bloom for weeks!

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However, some things just didn’t do well. Remember my super fragrant yellow rose?

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He’s looking like this:

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Sigh.. he’s dead. There’s mountains of ant hills all around the plant and I wonder if that had anything to do with it? I don’t know but I’m pretty sad. I also have two mangy-looking rose bushes in the back of the house that are looking scraggly and probably need to be pulled as well.

Last year was the first and only year I had this beautiful bundle of lilies in the backyard…

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This year they were devoured by the rabbits. Again. I had three blooms total. Oh well.

I’m still trying to find a decent landscaping company to come and remove some of the old shrubs. My hope is once that’s done I’ll be in better shape to thin out the bed and give my flowers a bit more room to grow. So many projects. So little time. :)

Late Celebrations

Hey there folks! How were your 4th of July festivities? Would you believe my office didn’t give us Friday off? Ben was off though so I cashed in vacation time so we could officially begin our long weekend Thursday night.

The first order of business was LONG overdue. Would you believe Ben celebrated his birthday on June 22 and we just now got around to doing the proper celebrating? Ridiculous! That shows you just how wonked the past couple of months have been around here. Super busy. I’m not neglecting just you guys.

Thursday night I got home and we both mentally unwound from the long week and then hopped into the car for some delicious dinner. Ben was so excited to finally get his birthday meal.

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The best (worst?) thing about this restaurant is that they give you a large basket filled with baked bread. They gave us a plate of crudité and crispy bread rounds for the cheese and pate spreads but I dug right for the soft and doughy butter horns. Gimme Gimme!!

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This restaurant is in an old historic building that used to be a hotel. There’s really interesting history behind the building and they have really old décor to match the times.

union hotel

The rooms smell really old (ha ha) but there is a really fun sense of old style charm as well that I really love. They have multiple dining rooms in various sizes all decorated a bit differently.

Although I wouldn’t mind if they changed the wallpaper in some of the rooms…

033Not a rabbit fan, lol

We ordered steaks with side salads. They were delicious

032 034 035 030But the highlight of the day was coming home and feasting on my masterpiece.

The cooking began on Wednesday night to prepare for the birthday celebration:

017 018 020 022 037Ben’s favorite cake is my homemade carrot cake. I was in a hurry and chopped the pineapple a bit larger than usual (not a big deal) but other than that it was wonderfully moist, flavorful, and absolutely delicious. We top it with a whipped cream cheese frosting that’s not overly sweet and paired it with some frozen custard.

It’s one of those cakes that is worth the extra time and Ben is so worth it too. <3 I’m still just a wee bit embarrassed that we had to wait so long to celebrate. Sorry hun!!

Well it’s time to get to work so I’ll wrap this up. I hope your weekend was equally sweet. ;)

The First Pitch

“SA-WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING Batter, Batter”

Well we had a thrilling opportunity this past week. As most of you know, my youngest brother Alex is a Special Olympics athlete and represented the USA in the 2013 World Games in South Korea. He’s also made the Summer Olympics World Team and will be in Los Angeles for the 2015 World Games next month.

As the event gets closer, there have been more and more events and publicity. Toyota is a sponsor of Special Olympics and also of the Milwaukee Brewers and they invited the three Wisconsin athletes that will be competing at The Games to come to Miller Park… and one of them would be able to throw out the first pitch.

They generously supplied us with 6 tickets so we all could go and cheer Alex on. Ben and I went into work early so we could leave and hit Milwaukee traffic right at rush hour. Oops. Luckily the family got there early so they could grab our tickets and get Alex and Matt out onto the field.

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Despite getting tickets, Alex also got to pick one person to be on the field sidelines with him. He chose Matt and what a thrilling experience for them both!

Knowing the family had safely secured our tickets, Ben and I sauntered towards the stadium and stopped to get photos with the sausage mascots. I mean, why not right?

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And yes, I ended up borrowing a co-worker’s jersey so I could support the home team during the event. I didn’t think it would be appropriate to be outfitted in my Cardinals red during a sponsored event!

Ben, a big Brewers fan, was very happy to be back at the park.

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We had thought we were going to be in the Toyota Territory section of the park, which is quite a distance off in right field and were THRILLED when we got loge infield seats between home and 3rd base. Score!

Alex was announced and he waved to the crowd before winding up for his pitch. He made it to the pitcher too!

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He got a handshake and a signed baseball. He was beaming. It was a really great effort. I was actually surprised he threw it that well. Had it been me I doubt I would have made it reach the pitcher. :-)

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After the excitement we settled in to watch the Crew take an early lead. I’ll admit I think Ben was the only one really watching the game. We were too busy snapping pictures, watching the video we had taken, and giggling about the event.

I think we took a zillion photos – and these were just on MY phone!

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I’m not disloyal, I kept tabs on the Cardinal game while we were there. :)

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Since we all had to work the next day and it was a 2+ hour drive home, we ended up leaving after the 5th inning. It was the perfect time to go too because there was no mass crush of people clambering to leave the stadium all at the same time. We sailed right out of the ball park and even got some good pictures as the sun was setting.

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As we were walking away, we saw them launch a bunch of fireworks for a home run. It was perfect timing to see them just as we were leaving.

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A great adventure and a fun evening. We were beyond tired when we got home but it was definitely worth the trip! Meanwhile the excitement is brewing before we all head to LA to cheer Alex on at the games. He’s competing in the 4×400 relay, the 5k, and the half marathon events. It’ll be quite the week of events for him and hopefully some Summer medals to go with his Silver and Bronze from S. Korea.

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Let the countdown begin…

Supper Clubbing

Well, we survived the rains and winds of yesterday. The weather men had hyped a HUGE storm for the past couple of days but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. There was a deluge around 11am that lasted about 10 minutes sandwiched between maybe an hour of mild rain. Then it cleared right up and we were left with 80 degrees and humidity.

The A/C is officially cranked, folks. This girl can’t sleep in sweaty sheets. Eww

Since the weather last night was fairly decent, we ventured out with friends for some supper club dining. Wisconsin supper clubs are some of Ben and my favorite things. While I could be wrong, it doesn’t seem like the true supper club phenomenon is as alive and well elsewhere in the US. But if you want to be a “true” Ali-qualified SC, then you have to have the following:

  •  a dark building with décor dating back to the 70s
  • waitstaff in the 60s
  • a large bar where you congregate and chat amongst diners before being shown to your table
  • oddly placed self-serve appetizer stations filled with crackers, cheese spread, and celery
  • large plates of food at very reasonable prices
  • 95%+ of the clientele is over the age of 65

Last night it was a return visit to a supper club in Appleton. We got seated in a different section of the restaurant than I’ve been in before and I really liked it. We were at the end of the room and it was nice and quiet.

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I tend to always order a tenderloin at supper clubs (probably because I like to compare them from place to place) and this was no exception. My meal started out with a salad:

030Sprouts? Mushrooms? Some non-iceberg lettuce mixed in? A+ for salad effort!

I’m pretty particular about how I like my meat cooked and this was about 2 levels too under-cooked. Eeek! I had to send it back to be cooked a bit more, but when it was finally cooked right, it was delicious. Umm Mmm

031I packed up some of my meat for lunch leftovers and then we decided to get some dessert!

Our friends each devoured delicious looking Crème Brule:

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While Ben and I decided to just split one dessert. We chose the strawberry rhubarb bread pudding. Amazing!

033As delicious as it was I think splitting was the right choice. I left very, very full. On our way back we made a quick stop for some wine tasting and picked up (ironically) a bottle of rhubarb wine. During our sampling a bachelorette party walked in to do wine tasting and take a painting class. Let me tell you, these girls were DRESSED! Call me overly cautious, but I wouldn’t have chosen a white dress for a painting party… especially where alcohol was concerned…022But hey, to each her (or her) own!

I’m scooting off to work. Looks like a much less humid day in store. Hopefully my day won’t be too hectic and I can get in a quick walk after work.

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