Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wine is Always Appropriate

I've always liked wine, been able to tell you what I like about a particular wine and whether a chardonnay was aged in an oak barrel (yum!) or steel barrel (not my thing).  That being said, it wasn't until a trip to Napa with friends several years ago that I was able to really take the time to educate myself about wines.  Now, I'm no wine snob, not even close, but I know what I like and what I don't like.  I sometimes like to spend $60 on a bottle of wine and sometimes only $10.  And I believe you can get a good bottle on the cheap.

Here are two of my favs from my CA trip:

Lava Vine, Napa Valley

We stopped at this little, blink and you'll miss it, winery on our first day and it definitely set a high standard for the trip!  Right off the bat I fell in love with the beautiful, natural setting and the intimate tasting room in an old barn.  The personalities behind Lava Vine are part of their brand and part of why everyone loves this place so much.  Jon, tasting room experience extraordinaire, makes everyone feel at home.  Even better than his good-natured spirit is his expertise in food pairings.  He paired a wonderful dessert wine with chocolate, sea salt, olive oil and cayenne pepper (I think).  As he was describing each taste that we were experiencing as we ate it, I knew that my time at Lava Vine would stay with me forever.  They love wine and their passion for good wine and good food is infectious.

You really can't go wrong with any of the offerings at Lava Vine.  We really enjoyed the Chardonnay (and I usually stay away from Chardonnay) but it was the Viognier that blew my mind.  Beyond delicious!  If you're in the area, you have to check out Lava Vine.

B.R. Cohn, Sonoma Valley

To be honest, the main tasting room at B.R. Cohn was so overrun with people that I didn't really enjoy myself.  It was clearly under-staffed and the staff that was there was lacking basic customer service skills (I'll blame that on being insanely busy but who knows).  Our group quickly found ourselves outside wandering the beautiful grounds of the winery.  Bruce Cohn, the proprietor, is a car enthusiast which is evident by the whimsical little sculptures around the drive way.

Everything was relaxing (once you left the tasting room) with it's white buildings and green lawns.  After a little exploration we found ourselves in the Classic Car tasting room - a very small building around back with a friendly twenty-something ready to pour us some wine.  These are the kind of little places that I really enjoy (see Lava Vine!).  The wine was much less expensive and much less pretentious.  This is the kind of wine you open on a Tuesday night for no reason other than it sounds like a good idea.  Check out the Panel Wagon Pinot (only $22!) and the Drag Racer Red.  Both great choices.  You won't be disappointed!

More great places later.  For now, check those two out and enjoy!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

What a great night!  The weather was perfect, the company was outstanding and the Twins won, in the bottom of the ninth no less.  It was wonderful. 

My dad treated us all to a night at the ballpark with great seats in one of the exclusive club levels.  We had in-seat wait service, private bathrooms and indoor seating in a club-like atmosphere for drinks before the game.  Target Field is spot on with the amenities and we loved it!  I think we’re going to make this an annual tradition.  Last year while spending a terrible summer in Rochester we talked a lot about all going to a Twins game.  Scott and I love going to games but my parents hadn’t seen the new field and hadn’t been to a baseball game in many years.  It was something we were all looking forward to but it was not to be.  My mom’s presence was missed last night but I know she would have been happy that we were all there having a great time together.  She would have been cheering on the Twins right along with us.  She was a huge Twins fan.

Up next…we need to take Jackson to a baseball game.  We haven’t taken him since he was about 2 months old.  

Friday, August 9, 2013


A year ago today was my mom's last radiation treatment - a day of celebration and smiles.  I had no idea what the next few weeks would bring us but I knew we'd fight through it just as we had the previous seven weeks.

It's true, there was a sense of fear once treatment was over.  With treatment there was a plan.  We knew what was happening everyday.  We fell into a routine.  Not a fun routine.  Not a routine that you ever want to find yourself in but a routine none the less.  Once treatment ended we just waited and prayed that all would turn out alright.  We had no idea.  We just had no idea.

Grief can be so isolating.  I truly had no idea the depth of pain of losing a parent until I was plunged into it - and really, how can you comprehend something like this unless you've experienced it yourself.  I guess I've found it even more difficult as time has gone on.  It seems like people expect that you will get over it in a few weeks, months, etc., but the waves of pain keep coming and I have no doubt will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  I think being pregnant made me feel even more isolated.  Everyone was so excited and looked at me as if I should be exuding happiness but I just did not feel that way.  I guess being pregnant was almost a constant reminder that my mom was not going to be there, that she and my babies are going to miss out on that relationship. 

The chaplain at the hospital said to us that tremendous grief is the price you pay for tremendous love.  I don't think truer words were ever spoken.  In the end I am so thankful for the time we did have with my mom, that she and I had such a close relationship and that I have so many amazing memories.  This summer my mom, dad and sister Elizabeth (she was on summer break from grad school) lived in a hotel in Rochester, MN for seven weeks so that she could have treatments at the Mayo Clinic which was right across the street.  Rochester is only about a 75 minutes drive from the Twin Cities where my other sister and I live.  We went down there at least once a week and I was able to take a few days off from work to be there with her for some of her treatments.  As crazy as it sounds, it was a real bonding experience.  We were a team (I even had Team Dee Gee shirts made for everyone) and were there to support my mom in every way possible.  I can honestly say that we all did everything we could do, there are no regrets.  Sometimes you just can't understand why things happen but just need to believe that it was part of the plan.  I know that my mom is my biggest cheerleader in heaven.  I know that she was proud of me, that I am who I am because of her, that I can draw on so many good times and strong values to help shape my own family.  She taught me how to be a good person, to work hard, to treat others with respect, to help others whenever possible and to do everything with a positive attitude.  I know these things because of her and while I will miss her every day for the rest of my life, I can live my life as a tribute to her. 

This is such a "one day at a time" kind of process.  All of the "firsts" have been hard but it does get a little easier everyday.  My husband has been so strong and supportive through all of this.  I couldn't have asked for anything better.  I draw strength from my family, my friends and the knowledge that I will see my mom again someday.

Monday, August 5, 2013

About time...

Wow, it’s been a while.  Things have certainly changed in our little corner of the world – some for better, some for worse. 

I don’t always understand the curve balls that life throws our way.  In fact, sometimes it’s just maddening.  There have been so many ups and downs in the last 2 ½ years.  We bought a new house and entered into the world of landlords (we couldn’t sell our townhouse and had outgrown it so we're renting it out).  We both have new jobs that are making us happier and improving our professional lives.  We have a four year old that constantly challenges us but also brings so much joy to our lives.

We’ve had some serious trials as well.  In June 2012 my mom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, stage four.  This is not good news folks.  Our lives got completely flipped upside down as she went through chemo and radiation treatments from the end of June through early August.  All of her treatments were at the Mayo Clinic which is only about 75 miles away from us.  I was able to travel down there at least once a week to see her (my parents rented a suite in a hotel across the street from the Clinic).  It was an oddly bonding experience for us all I believe.  We were a team, we fought right alongside my mom.  In the end, however, what we all prayed for was not to be.  We lost my mom on September 28 after a three month battle with the most deadly, frightening, vicious disease there is.  Dealing with the biggest loss of my life has been the biggest challenge of my life. 

The past year has also brought immense joy with the birth of twin (TWIN!) boys – Beckett and Declan.  We found out last July that we were pregnant and by the end of August knew that it was twins.  The words “you’ve got to be kidding me” kept going through my head for days/weeks/months.  The truly wonderful part is that my mom knew it was twins and was so excited.  She had just begun to tell people when she passed.  I’m so happy she had that joy after a nightmare of a summer. 

The twins were born by c-section on March 27 at 38 weeks, 3 days.  Quite an accomplishment if I do say so myself.  Both were over 7 pounds and very healthy.  No NICU time, no scary moments and we all got to go home together on Easter Sunday which also happened to be my husband’s birthday.  Such a great way to celebrate!

We are now a family of five and loving every minute of it.  It's exhausting, don't get me wrong, but my boys put the biggest smile on my face.  And after a year like this last one, those smiles mean all the world to me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ready for some pictures?

Wow!  It's been a busy few weeks for the Carters.  Prepare yourself for a rather picture-heavy post.  Enjoy!

Several weeks ago we went to the monthly open house for the Greater Midwest Lego Train Club.  We would never have known about it except for a story on the local news.  Obviously, with Jackson's obsession with all things train related, I knew we had to go.  It was incredible!  You would never find it unless you knew it was there.  It's in an old warehouse in a rather out-of-the-way part of town.  After a long walk down a hallway that I didn't think would ever end, we arrived to a room full of parents and kids and lots of Legos.  It was worth the walk and the crowds!  Jackson just loved it!  As you look through these pictures, remember that EVERYTHING you see is made out of Legos.  I think they said they've used almost a million Legos to make it all.  If you have a Lego or train lover in your life, you have to check this out!

Part of the Thomas the Train scene

The scenes were built up with Legos and had these little "windows" right at kid height.  There was another little scene inside each little window. 

What a great day!  We will definitely go back.  They have an open house on the second Saturday of every month.  Check it out!

The weekend before Easter we all made the trek down to Iowa for....drum roll please....the Shrine circus!!  I LOVED the circus growing up.  I loved all the animals, the acrobats, the motorcycles, the cotton candy and the fun toys that would light up.  Getting to experience the whole thing through Jackson's eyes was even more amazing.  Thank you to Grandma and Grandpa Blair for such a wonderful day!

Outside the Tyson Event Center in Sioux City, IA

Jackson got his very own light toy!

...and it was perfect for tickling!

Happy little boy (and Mom)!!

Here are some adorable bath pictures!  He was in rare form that night.

Trying to tickle Daddy

We spent Easter Sunday at the Carter's house.  It's always so much fun to get together with family.  Gramma Carter even planned an Easter egg hunt for the kids!  I was surprised at how quickly Jackson picked it up.  He was running around with Zac and Zoe trying to find all the eggs.  They all had a great time!

Trying to find every last egg

Oh my goodness!  A new truck!

Has there ever been a cuter picture taken?  I don't think so.  The two Carter goofballs!

After Jackson's naptime, he opened his Easter basket at home.  Cars, books, a movie and trains -- it doesn't get any better for a 21 month old little boy.

Check out my new car!

Looking at all the Thomas stuff that he can put on his birthday list

So, as you can see, it's been a pretty busy month around here.  We're all doing well and looking forward to spring (if it ever arrives) and summer.  Jackson can't wait until he can spend more time outside.  He really is an outdoors kid.  I remember my parents telling me that when I was a child, they used to have to hide my coat because I wanted to go outside ALL THE TIME.  Well, Jackson is getting to be the same way.  It's a good thing though and we will enjoy lots of park time this summer! 

Jackson is talking more and more.  I think the last time we counted he is up to about 35 words and he seems to be adding a new one everyday.  This morning his new word was "whale."  He's even starting to put them together in sentences which is really exciting to me!  So, we're chugging right along and quickly approaching his second birthday.  Scary!!  It's so much fun though!  Everyday he does or says something new and amazing and we're loving every minute of it!

Until next time, take care!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pajama Day!!!

On Friday, Jackson's daycare did an All-School Pajama Day.  Now, I remember these from Homecoming Week in high school but to see a bunch of little ones running around in PJs all day is simply adorable.  Here is Jackson getting ready on Friday morning -- all decked out in his Star Wars pajamas, a gift from Grandma and Grandpa Blair.

Mom, why are you taking pictures of me so early in the morning?  I haven't even had breakfast yet!

Star Wars pjs and addidas sneakers -- too cute!

Just had to include these two from last night.  Jackson is typically in a pretty foul mood post-bathtime but a sure-fire way to get him to crack up is to carry him upstairs along with Cappy.  Of course, Cappy isn't too thrilled with the routine as you can tell. 

It finally feels like Spring is almost here!  Can't wait to start spending more time outside! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Another Busy Month!

It's been another busy month for us.  We've made a visit to Choo Choo Bob's and the Children's Museum.  Scott was able to get away with friends, once for a hockey weekend in Madison and another time to go ice-fishing.  It's been a fun month and everyone has been relatively healthy!  Yeah!

Jackson has also learned a few new words, some of which are so adorable and a couple ("No" and "Mine") I wish he could have waited a few more months to learn.  He is really growing and developing all the time and it's so much fun to watch!

For Valentine's Day, Jackson got a few more Thomas trains to play with.  Thomas is truly his favorite thing.  We could play with trains and watch videos all day long and he would never get bored with it.

Making sure Annie and Clarabel are in working order.

Come on, how can you resist that smile?

The weekend that Scott went to Madison with the boys, Danielle and I took Jackson and Zachary to Choo Choo Bob's for some train time.  This store is wonderful!  They have a train show and little train tables in the back for the littler ones to play.  If you're into trains, this is the place to be.

Jackson and Zachary checking out the Thomas stuff.

They have a big electric train set in front that Jackson just loved.

So much for a cute picture of the cousins.  This will have to do.  The trains were just too interesting.

We also made a visit to the Children's Museum.  I've heard so much about this place.  It definitely lived up to the hype.  Jackson loved it!

He was fascinated with the huge fish hanging from the ceiling in the atrium.

One of his favorite things was the city bus.  I wasn't sure we were ever going to get out.

Is the bus driver supposed to be able to see above the steering wheel?

Checking out the factory area

He loved the water tables too!

They had a special Castle exhibit with Legos.  It was pretty cool!  Everything was made out of Legos.

They also have an area dedicated specifically to infants and toddlers.  Lots of little things to play with and climb.  The puppets were fun!

Working on his fishing skills

Checking out the giant fish from above.

We're looking forward to warmer weather and the possibility of spending more time outside.  I think we're all going a little stir crazy this winter.

This week we have Jackson's parent/teacher conference at his daycare.  I love the idea of conferences for toddlers!  Makes me laugh!  It is a good opportunity to sit down and talk with his teachers and learn about any issues that are going on.  We are SO HAPPY with his school.  The teachers are wonderful and the fact that he gets upset when it's time to go home is a good sign too.  I have a feeling they are going to want to talk about potty training though which really makes me nervous.  I am not ready for that and I don't think Jackson is either. 

Until next time, take care!