Friday, August 7, 2015

Paul's 2-Day Birthday Extravanganza

Another wonderful year in the books! After we got back from our cabin trip, we had a day or two to settle back in (and go pick blueberries, in my case) and then we were on to celebrating Paul's birthday.

We ate very well, as we love to do. I made the Baked Huevos Rancheros from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook and a batch of cornbread to start the day off. Paul fixed himself up a pretty plate topped with jalapeno dust.

After breakfast, we started a knife skills class through Craftsy. We haven't gotten to the hands on lessons yet but we have already learned a lot including that we haven't been going about sharpening our knives correctly.

As is tradition for Paul and I with birthdays, we know we are in for a day of fun but the details are kept secret. This year I put a little extra secret into the mix by surprising him with the arrival of a group of his friends for a mission at Escape MSP. Our clever group successfully completed Mission 1! We celebrated afterwards with drinks and brats at New Bohemia. It was a lot of fun to do the mission but even more fun to watch Paul's surprise and happiness with the arrival of each of his friends. Kudos to the crew for keeping the secret!

Since I know Paul loves blueberries, I went picking the day before we celebrated and made this tart for us in lieu of a birthday cake. I confess, the crust is not homemade, but he doesn't seem to mind.

For dinner on birthday celebration day 1, we went to a newer restaurant called La Ceiba Bistro. This restaurant is a reincarnation of El Meson, a restaurant that Paul used to frequent when we first started dating. He took me there on a date once and I enjoyed my dish enough that I still remember it this many years later. Thankfully, this incarnation of the restaurant uses some of the same recipes as the previous place so I got to eat that dish again. The food was great but the space is a bit small for the live music and dance performance that was happening that night. It was a bit overpowering so we ate and took our conversation needs elsewhere. Paul was excited to be able to revisit this cuisine again, but if we return, we would go on a quieter night.

On his actual birthday, I had to work but we spent the evening celebrating. To start out, we had a picnic dinner beside the river on the edge of downtown St. Paul.

From there we walked over the river to the Wabasha Street Caves.

Somehow it had escaped Paul's beer-loving radar that it was Tour de Fat week. I surprised him with tickets to the sold out Sour Symposium hosted by New Belgium Brewing.

Before the symposium started, we were given a tour of the historic caves. We learned about gangsters, speakeasies, mushrooms and hazardous waste.

The symposium included a lecture/slide show, a generous amount of New Belgium Brewing beer, a cheese and charcuterie platter, opportunities for Q & A as well as a hands on tasting/mixing experience.

The mixing portion of the evening was a bit lost on me as I could not pick out the differences in the beer that had been aged in different casks to bring out different flavors. The beers are all used as the base for La Folie so to my untrained palette, they all tasted like La Folie! Paul could tell the difference and mixed a variety of his own blends to find the flavor and tartness that suited him best. He rightly calls it La Paulie.

After we had consumed all of the sour beer one person can consume in an evening, we were just an Uber ride away from the conclusion of Paul's birthday festivities...until next year, that is!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lady Sunnyside Cardigan

It seems that lately I have a whole lot more to say about sewing than I do about knitting. I think it is related to the fact that I still have so much to learn about sewing before I feel skilled enough to execute projects in the way that I want to. This is sort of a funny place to be in being that my internet alias is a word play on my name and knitting. Even thought I don't have a lot to say about it, I still enjoy it and am still happily chugging away on projects. I am also still one to finish seasonally inappropriate garments. Case in point: Lady Sunnyside, pattern by Tavis Lavallee.

I had a few false starts with this sweater as it starts in the back center of the neckband and works out in both directions from there. I was a terrible pattern reader and kept messing it up. When I started over for the 3rd time, I vowed to read and follow it closely and it worked out perfectly.

The yarn is a wool/cotton blend that from Cestari Yarns that I got at a deep discount from a vendor at Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival in 2014. I think the yarn was about $14, which means it is quite possible that the button and yarn costs were about equal!

Bonus content: We tried to do a little family photo shoot with the tripod, camera and timer on our recent trip. It didn't work out super well focus-wise, but we did capture a few fun moments together before the mosquitoes became unbearable.

Thanks to Paul for taking all of the sweater photos in this post!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

White Lake Trip - Gooseberry Falls State Park

After we checked out of the cabin, we realized we just weren't quite ready to head back yet. We wanted to squeeze just a little bit more beauty out of our time in Northern Minnesota so we went to Gooseberry Falls State Park.

It was a bit like returning to our roots as this was the first place Paul and I ever camped together. We went on a trip to this park after I had gotten my first dog, Jack. At that point, Paul had claimed Tchazo but hadn't yet brought him home. We camped here again after both dogs had joined our family right before we moved to the east coast. So, it was almost fated that we should bring our new dog to see this park.

Since we were limited on time, we stuck to hiking the shoreline and skipped the falls trails.

Lake Superior feels oceanic, but it was still a surprise to spot this National Ocean Survey marker.

We now know that waves and brooms are 2 things that hype Uli up. He was bounding up and down the shore line, fueled by the motion and sounds of the waves.

He really prefers when we stick together. His people forging too far ahead or lagging too far behind concerns him. It melts my heart a little to see him looking back for me.

He was pretty tuckered out at this point in our trip, but his excitement for being somewhere new and not wanted to be left behind kept him going wherever we went.

Lunch and tasting flights at Castle Danger Brewery capped off a great 5 days of cabin vacation for us while Uli would have preferred to be napping on his pillow in the back of the car.

Soon enough that was just what he was doing and we were on our way home. At some point, I hope to return to camping for these kinds of retreats but for now this cabin with its secluded, spring-fed lake is my most favorite spot for a relaxing, restorative summer vacation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

White Lake Trip - Uli Conquers His Fears (Mostly)

One thing we have noticed about our little pup is that he is very curious but a bit afraid of new and untested things that appear dangerous to him. Things that have fallen into that category for Uli:
  • the stairs to the basement
  • jumping in and out of the back of the car
  • idling cars (We had a scare when he got spooked by a car and got out of his collar and leash at a rest stop. We are thankful for a nearby dog owner that caught him!)
  • other dogs barking at him
  • boats
  • fire
As with the stairs to the basement and the back of the car, some encouragement and treat lures are all it takes to gain his confidence and banish the fear.

On this trip, we laid some groundwork for Uli's future as a BWCA dog. It was an incremental thing, first praising his curiosity about the boat.

Then, we got in it while it was on shore and encouraged him to join us.

We offered special treats that smelled really enticing to lure him in.

He really wanted the treat but wasn't willing to get into the boat from the dock. He figured out for himself that he could get in from the shore instead of the dock.

And in he came!

"Where's my treat? I did it!"

We practiced having him go in and out from the shore with lots of gushing praise and treats.

Then, we pushed off from the shore and he HAD to get in from the dock.

He did it and from that point on, it wasn't a scary place. It was a place where treats happen!

So when, on another day, Paul bailed the boat out, he jumped in on his own!

We took him for a few rides. Being in the boat wasn't nearly as scary to him as getting in and out of it. So far he hasn't tried to jump out into the water but if the boat had been a canoe, he surely would have tipped it.

Next up on our desensitization plan: fire.

Uli has been around fire in our backyard before and he always keeps his distance.

A rather large range of distance!

So we worked on showing him that it is safe to get nearer.

Praising and treats did the trick again!

Another successful lure is to offer safety and comfort with cuddles. This lure works especially well if he is exhausted from a long hiking day trip.

thanks to Paul for the picture

When we first arrived at the cabin, Uli and Paul headed to the dock. Paul leaned over to look for fish and Uli wanted to know what was so interesting. He leaned a little too far and fell into the water! I don't think he liked the surprise of that and so it set the stage for all water entry via shore. Paul really wanted Uli to run and jump off of the dock so he tried his best to get him to do it.

Throwing the ball in for fetch yielded shore entries. Calling him to join you when you were already out in the water yielded shore entries. So, Paul figured the best way to get him to jump would be by a follow-the-leader approach.

Uli followed him all right. Riiiiiight up to the edge of the dock and then was like, "No way, man. I did that already and once was enough for me. I'll just watch you from here."

Can't win 'em all, I guess!

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