Halloween cakeballs

We were invited to a Halloween party by our good friends Nancy & Scott, so I decided to make some Halloween themed cakeballs to take to the party!

The best part about cakeballs is that you can use pretty much any boxed cake mix and frosting, but I am a chocolate lover and went with the chocolate cake and chocolate frosting. I’ve previously posted on how to make cakeballs, but as a brief recap you make the cake as normal and then mix it up with the frosting and form balls out of the mixture.  You then dunk the balls in candy coating and decorate them!

The finished cakeballs were pretty cool (if I do say so myself) and everyone at the party seemed to really enjoy them!

The finished product! Very yummy!!

Surprise

Yesterday I got home and James met me at the garage door and said he had a surprise for me and I had to close my eyes.  He covered them with his hand just to make sure I couldn’t peak and led me through the kitchen to the bedroom.  When he pulled his hands away, we were standing in front of the TV in the bedroom and on the console was a brand new blue-ray player still in the box.

I was pretty excited because before this the only blue ray player we had was downstairs in the family room and I don’t really like watching movies down there by myself.  In fact, James told me he got the reason he got it was that he wanted me to watch the blue ray movies he’d gotten me that I’d never watched!

After getting over the surprise, I gave him a smooch and thanked him for his thoughtfulness.  James then went to the computer room to work and I went to the kitchen to make dinner.

I got out the stuff for dinner, put some water on to boil, and then started to put the dishes away.  As I bent down to put something away, I happened to glance towards the living room and screamed.  Yes, screamed.

There in the living room was a big screen TV, the most perfect console, and the new blue ray player (the box in the bedroom was a decoy!).

Surprise!

It turns out that James was expecting me to pick up the box for the blue ray player while I was in the bedroom and then figure out that it wasn’t there and go looking for it.  Unfortunately while I looked at the box, I never actually picked it up!  Then he assumed I’d notice it when I went out to the kitchen, but nope, I was concentrating so much on getting dinner ready I completely missed it!

Once I finally realized what was going on, James came out of the computer room and we checked out the new set-up.  I absolutely loved it and was amazed at how well he did picking out the console on his own (and yes, he got an even bigger smooch this time!)! I was also really excited because the TV and console finished off the living room.

When we first moved into our house, I had a vision for the living room.  I wanted comfortable seating around the fireplace, as well as a TV off to the side so I could watch it while working in the kitchen. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any of these things at the time, so we planned on getting them after we sold the house.  Well, the house sold in April and we got the comfortable seating in May, but we never got around to picking out a TV and console.  At first it was because it was summer and we were to busy outside to worry about watching TV inside.  Then when we did look around, we didn’t see a console that we liked.  Yet yesterday, all on his own, James got the new TV and blue-ray, found the perfect console that matched the wood floors perfectly, and set everything up!

One year

It’s been one year since we bought the house and wow have we been busy!

Sitting in front of the house - Fall 2010

Here’s a run down on the changes, additions, and deletions we’ve made in the past year! Many of the things on the list have to do with moving into a much bigger house with 11.5 acres of land!!

  • Floor to ceiling bookcases for family room
  • 23 hp Massey-Ferguson tractor
  • Bookcases for the living room
  • 5ft box blade for tractor
  • 6 ft rear blade for tractor
  • Planted 161 trees
  • Post hole digger for tractor with 6″, 9″, & 12″ augers
  • Planted a garden (then destroyed the garden in the fall to build the new barn)
  • Rock for the driveway
  • Geothermal heating and cooling system for house
  • Couch and Chair for living room
  • 48 hp Massey-Ferguson tractor (traded in the smaller tractor)
  • 6ft finish mower for tractor
  • 6ft brush hog (rotary cutter) for tractor
  • 6ft landscape rake for tractor
  • Pool Liner
  • Started pole building (I think it’s a barn, but James says it’s a building)
  • Built driveway to new pole building
  • Dug pond (no water yet)
  • Weather system
  • Beaver Dams (the beavers built them and James pulled them out)
  • TV and console for living room

Hopefully things will slow down next year, but with James I never know!

The house summer 2010

Chicago – Slate Conference

Bright and early (emphasis on early) Thursday morning, I caught the train to Chicago for the annual SLATE Conference going on Thursday-Friday.  (James had to work Friday, so I was traveling solo for once!)

The SLATE Conference is a smaller conference, but definitely didn’t lack quality presentations! I attended four really good ones in the afternoon; two on faculty training, one on e-portfolios, and one on the iPad for educational uses. Then for the fifth and last session of the day, I presented on Richland’s Online Student Orientation and what we’ve learned over the last 1.5 years since we’ve been using it.  I think it went pretty good and I really enjoyed using Prezi as my presentation software versus plain boring PowerPoint!

Afterwords I walked around Chicago a little bit and ended up eating at Pompei’s Pizza and Pasta.  The food was really good and decently priced, which I always appreciate.

On my way back to the hotel I noticed a grocery store and made a mental note of it.  I know this probably sounds strange, but I’d never been in a downtown Chicago grocery store and I thought it would be interesting to see what it was like.

Luckily the next morning I had 45 minutes of free time between sessions, so I decided to go back and check it out.  It was kind of strange to be wandering around a grocery store for fun. Normally grocery shopping is an unwelcomed chore, but not having the pressure of needing to actually buy anything made it very relaxing and allowed me to enjoy the colors and textures of the fresh (and organic) fruits and vegetables!

Some of the bright and colorful fruits and vegetables at the market!

I also enjoyed looking at their fall flowers.  For a grocery store it seemed like they had a pretty good selection of fresh flowers and some absolutely beautiful colors!

The rest of the sessions on Friday were also pretty good and really promoted discussion within the presentations. This was a nice change from some of the larger conferences where the presentations aren’t always that great and normally don’t include much dialogue at all!

The conference ended a little after 3pm and my train back to Bloomington wasn’t until 5:15pm, so I decided to walk to the train station.  This ended up being a great decision because the weather was beautiful and I got a chance to wander around Chicago a little doing the tourist thing!

I made it to the train station with time to spare and had an uneventful and rather relaxing trip home! All in all, a nice educational trip to Chicago!

Digging the pond

When the excavation guy for the barn said they would need a lot of dirt to build up the foundation for the barn, James had a brainstorm.  We’ve been wanting a pond, but weren’t sure how we were going to get it dug.  What if we had the excavation crew use our dirt and in the process dig our pond?  The excavation guy said that wouldn’t be a problem, so we’re now the proud owners of a not perfect, but much better than we could have done on our own pond!

James is planning on doing some work to the pond in the spring (before it fills), but for now at least we’ve got a start on it!

New pool liner

The new pool liner is in and the pool is filled! Yay! Just in time for us to close it for the winter… Boo!!

Luckily I had James take a few pictures to remind us of how nice the new liner will be in the spring/summer when we open the pool back up!!

Tree moving

As part of the site prep, our excavation guy had to clear a path for the new driveway to the barn.  Unfortunately, one of our spruce trees was right in the middle of this path, but luckily our excavation guy got his start as a tree mover and offered to move the tree to a better location instead of just tearing it out!

James was there to chronicle the experience and dug in and to help shovel!  Which means we didn’t get a picture of the tree actually in its new home, but trust me, it looks good and seems quite happy!

New barn

How is it possible to go from a 1400 square foot house with a one car garage and a 8’X10′ shed to a 3600 square foot house with a two car garage and a 12’X20′ shed and not have enough space? Right now our garage is filled with our cars, bicycles, my gardening supplies, and James’ tools.   While the shed barely fits the tractor, much less all the implements for the tractor, the wood chipper, and James’ other large tools.  Thus after much talking and debating the pros & cons, we finally decided to go ahead and build a barn. More specifically, we decided to build a 36’X48′ pole barn with a 12 foot clearance!

Yet before we could build the barn, we had to clear a site for it.  Unfortunately, the best site for it was slightly adjacent to the current shed, but a little further back, which put it right in the middle of a large grove of trees and my garden!  So all of it had to come out!

James started the process by pulling out a lot of the smaller trees, but then we had to call in the big guns and get a site excavator to come in and clear out the area.

Pulling out trees to clear the site for the new barn

It’s amazing how quickly it went once they started on it and James helped out by pulling the trees out of the way with his tractor once they were out of the ground.

Getting the site ready

And finally, after much hard work, the trees were gone and the ground was clear and ready for the next step, getting the ground level and ready for the foundation of the barn!

Before vs. After site prep

Rushmore trip by the numbers

Our Rushmore Trip was crazy, but a lot of fun! As shown from the map below we made a giant loop that accumulated in 2,685 miles in slightly over four days! We visited eight states (Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Iowa, & Nebraska) and 3 state capitals (Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa).  Only 1,576 pictures  were taken, but we saw 18 different giant sculptures (11 of which were giant animals)!  We saw absolutely no live buffalo, but James ate buffalo three times (steak and two burgers; Kona had a bite of the steak and one burger).

Route we took to Mount Rushmore and Back!

Note that the location of some of the places we visited did not always correspond 100% to the letter associated with it. The map was too busy with letters for each thing we did, so I condensed it!

A – Argenta (Home & Giant A&W statue)

B – Minneapolis (Minnesota State Capital, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, & Conservatory)

C – Bemidji (Paul Bunyan & Babe) & Mississippi Headwaters (start of the Mississippi River)

D – Fargo (Fargo Walk of Fame & Space Alien Grill & Bar)

E – Jamestown (Giant Buffalo) & Steele (Giant Sandhill Crane)

F – Bismarck (State capital building) & New Salem (Salem Sue – Giant Cow)

G – Enchanted Highway (over 30 miles of giant sculptures!)

H – Geographic Center of the Nation (Real & Fake)

I – Devils Tower

J – Mount Rushmore & Crazy Horse (two huge sculptures)

K – Wall Drug & Badlands (Giant Prairie Dog Sculpture)

L – Sioux City (South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, quickly back into Iowa)

M – Avoca (Giant VW Bug Spider), Des Moines (State Capital), Moscow (Iowa Farm Equipment and A&W Family statues), I80 (largest truck stop in the world, and Davenport (The Camera Store)

N – Argenta (home!)

It’s hard to believe we saw and did so much in such a short period of time! There were a number of places I would have enjoyed spending more time (Minneapolis, Mount Rushmore area, Badlands, etc…), but overall we had a great time and made many new memories!

Iowa

Tuesday morning we left North Sioux City, SD, headed into Sioux City, IA (stopping at the visitors center for a state map!), and then veered off course into South Sioux City, NE for about 10 minutes before getting back onto course in Iowa.

Welcome to Iowa!

Driving along I80, we took a slight detour into Avoca to see a Volkswagen turned into a spider.  It was quite random sitting there between someone’s driveway and a cornfield, but overall it was worth stopping to see!

Our next stop for the day was in Des Moines to see the Iowa State Capital building. It was a beautiful day and we had a nice time walking around and looking at the capital and surrounding buildings.  We also saw the first buffalo of the trip that wasn’t being eaten for dinner!

As we traveled along I80 across Iowa, James mentioned wanting to visit an implement dealer he had found online. It was Iowa Farm Equipment located in Moscow, IA, but luckily for us, their showroom was right off the interstate.  I think this was one of James’ favorite parts of the whole trip… he was like a kid in a candy store!

Randomly enough, as we were getting ready to get off on the exit for Iowa Farm Equipment, I noted the entire A&W Rootbeer family! It was part of a miniature golf course in a campground off the interstate, so after we got done looking at farm machinery, we made a quick stop to check it out! Unlike the lone Rootbeer papa in Ogelsby, IL (that we saw on the first day of this vacation), this was the whole family… how cool!

After getting back on the road, we started to see signs for the I80 Truck Stop, which is the largest truck stop in the World.  James had never been there before, so we decided to take a quick look.  Overall it was pretty cool for a truck stop and even had a movie theater, chiropractor, dentist, and someone on hand to do physicals!

Iowa 80 - Largest Truck Stop in the World

Last, as we got closer to the Quad Cities, James decided to stop at The Camera Corner in Davenport Iowa.  We had been there before in June (when we picked up the new lens for Ty & Austin’s wedding) and they had a pretty extensive selection, so James knew they would probably have the lens hood he was looking for (which they did!).

Finally, after one more stop at Wal-Mart in Bloomington for some groceries, we made it home around 8pm!