As if one Big Birthday Weekend wasn’t enough, there must be one more!
Our first BBW had a scheduling snafoo for some family members, but DT, the kids, and I made our way back up to Alexandria for a redo. We were even lucky enough to cross paths briefly with Dustin and Allison, who were also in town for a cabin-with-friends weekend.
Our day started with a pretty drive through the country, destination: Inspiration Peak. I can’t believe I have roots in Alexandria spanning my entire life and still had never been here. It’s 1,750 feet high – one of the highest points in the state of Minnesota.
The hike up to the top is pretty quick (1/4 mile), but plenty steep the whole way. But when you get there, you get to see this:
On the way back to town we stopped by Leaf Valley Mercantile for a very late lunch. This is totally our kind of place, and Henry got his cheeseburger.
Yes, we made a return visit to Casey’s for a fiercely competitive round of miniature golf. We just missed the rain!
It was not DT’s best game. (Teehee)
But Sam and I tied for second place. :-) :-)
Dad blew us all out of the water!
We had an amazing dinner a la Chef-Randy-mans-the-grill, and for dessert the guys had a special treat. (Mom and I conveniently volunteered to do the dishes.) BeanBoozled: you spin, and wherever you land is the color Jelly Belly you must eat. Except….more than one flavor is green, or white, or yellow, or black. You might get pear, but it might be booger. It could be coconut, but it might be baby wipes. It could be black licorice, but it could be skunk. Or canned dog food, or vomit, or rotten eggs, or grass clippings. You see how pleasant this sounds.
Well, anyway, see for yourself….
Looks like tons of fun, doesn’t it?
Have you ever played Farkle? My family is addicted. It’s a dice game that’s a little quirky to learn at first, but once you do, you’ll want to keep playing and playing and playing. We weren’t sure how quickly Sam and Henry would pick up on the rules and the goofy scoring, but they surprised us and were quickly sucked in.
The game was FIERCE!
And the trash talking was epic.
It turned out to be a very late night – we were all pooped by the time we headed for bed.
Mom even read us a story (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) before tucking us in. ;-)
Aww, Mamma. Ever our storyteller.
Then Bailey Louise had to crash the party….
On Sunday morning we were rested, refreshed and ready to eat a big breakfast. Fresh eggs from our chicken girls, bacon, toast, cereal….all set for the day!
After digesting just a little, we headed over to my grandparents’ house. Sam and Henry had only met my grandpa once – at our wedding, almost five years ago – and my grandma wasn’t able to be there. So, it was fun to bring everybody together again – I know G&G were just itching to see the guys.
The rain let up just enough so there could be a little outside time. My dad hauled out the old Mule and took the kids (DT included) for a spin. Sam and Henry kicked a soccer ball around the massive yard and did some exploring. Grandma loaded them up on her endless stash of sugary sweets. It was a lovely little visit!
We squeezed in ONE MORE GAME of Farkle before we hit the road to head home.
Another blast of a weekend in Alexandria is in the books! That the kids could be with us and had so much fun, whatever we found to do, made it all the more spectacular for everyone. Poor Bailey-hound probably slept for days after the Sam-and-Henry-tornado departed! :-)
I must say, Hellraising Hot Sauce has come a long way since we last spoke about it. DT and I are over the moon! It’s been a crazy six months or so.
Our imposed period of unemployment turned out to be a blessing on the hot sauce front. It gave us solid blocks of uninterrupted time to get our ducks in a row – food safety instruction, acquiring insurance, filing with the MDA/FDA, approving labels, renting commercial kitchen space, inspector signoff, applying for the endless licenses and certificates needed to produce, bottle, and sell our product. It is certainly a tricky system to navigate, there is absolutely no straight line to get from point A to point B. But once you get there….the fun (and work) can begin!
Our first official day of production in the commercial kitchen was May 8. It’s so funny to think back on that day and how clueless we were. With all of our supplies and groceries in tow….picking up produce from the wholesaler, setting ourselves up and fumbling around the kitchen for the first time….let’s just say it was a VERY long day. But it was so EXCITING!
Now when we are scheduled at the kitchen, DT and I are like a machine. It’s all business, no small talk, no dilly-dallying….we found a groove in three short months. DT does this, I do that. He starts this, I finish that. And vice versa. It’s good.
As you know, Hellraising started with two sauces, Sweet Suffering and Triple Inferno. This summer we released a third sauce, Green Fever – it’s become my new favorite! This recipe is a tad milder than the others, using serrano peppers with lime. The lime flavor is so bright and pairs brilliantly with the pepper heat. I eat it by the spoonful!
We are thrilled to be in a few restaurants around the Twin Cities, including Sea Salt, Señor Wong, Pizza Luce – Richfield, Driftwood Char Bar, and George and the Dragon. Twisted Oak Wood Fired Pizza developed a special pizza recipe using Green Fever which is so cool. We are constantly scouting out other spots and have made some wonderful connections as we stop into places and talk to folks about our sauce.
We’ve sold direct to customers that sought us out, hearing about Hellraising one way or another – it’s so crazy and delightfully random. And yet at the same time so purposeful and intentional. The interest and enthusiasm has been so, SO unbelievably inspiring and invigorating. DT and I just relish every minute of it. We LOVE meeting fans!
Our sauces are on the shelves at Guse Green Grocer and we are chatting with a few other grocery stores as well.
It’s been a really exciting time and we are working hard, but enjoying the hard work so, so much. What’s that saying about doing something you love? You’ll never work a day in your life? I think DT and I are now getting to see what that really means and it’s awesome.
So anyway, just wanted to share all of our news….it’s Hellraising all day, every day – yippee! :-)
It was a perfect-summer-weather Saturday for beers and games in Loring Park. We weren’t the only ones with these afternoon plans – so many people, kids, and dogs came out to join this nutty party.
DT and the kiddos quickly made a beeline for that addictive bicycle tire totem pole….this wasn’t the only time we stopped!
Two Ranger IPAs, please.
The giant Connect 4 game:
The crazy fun house mirrors!
The fan bike:
Sam and Henry waited in line for a turn to ride the funky bikes and test drove several over a bunch of laps around the ‘track.’
We caught a little show on the big stage….
On our way out, Sam and Henry explored the strange, furry, polar bear-like monstrosity by the entrance gates:
And of course our ritual photo by the Loring Park fountain….
Such a fun afternoon, we love when the Tour comes to town!
I have been so terribly absent on this blog most of 2014. Apologies for the neglect here, I do miss the writing and sharing.
Just to follow up on this post from way back in April….DT and I are officially employed again. Wooooeee!
DT found full-time work and started May 12 – I landed another contract where I was before. Same company/similar role/different department. I just started back on Monday.
So….WHEW! When I think about writing that post, and what a strange time it was for both of us, it’s a little hard to believe. It was darker and colder outside – it felt a lot that way inside too. A lot has happened since we each learned our contracts were ending.
And it’s been a tad surreal this week, driving the same commute, entering the same buildings, walking the same halls, seeing many familiar faces (which has been such a bright light!), where nearly five months ago I was spending my last day and in an absolute, panicked daze.
Well, anyway. We made it through and here we are. More to share with you, but in the meantime, that’s what we’re celebrating these days.
It is shameful that I wrote about our little chicken friends nearly a year ago after their arrival and have had zero follow-up since. What a terrible chicken mamma I am!
So it’s high time I tell you a little more about the birdies.
First of all, they survived one of the most God-awful winters known to the entire state of Minnesota, poor babies. Of course, our first cold season with them would turn out to be so immensely wretched. They avoided snow like the plague, so didn’t come out of their coop and run for about five months. I know they weren’t too happy, but they did just fine.
My dad helped to engineer a heat lamp using a 150-watt lightbulb covered with a clay pot to serve as a source of warmth inside their coop. Here they are, basking in the glow:
I would often see them huddled up around the pot too, I’m sure that must have felt sooooo good to their little bodies. They are THRILLED that summer [unofficially] is here and they have the run of the yard again. And that it’s above 12 degrees.
Second, we’ve learned so much about chickens, and each of them has such a distinct personality. It’s been fun getting to know them – as much as you can know a chicken, I guess!
DT and I consider Gertrude to be kind of like the older, protective sister. She’s the first one out of the coop when we open the door each morning, and the first to check out any kind of food situation. She’s also very observant and watchful when they are all out in the yard for any looming creatures, whether it’s a hawk soaring high above, a smaller bird swooping through, or a squirrel skittering about.
We think Deborah is certifiably nuts. She’s just a little bit off her rocker, but that only adds to her character. She had a couple of broody bouts last summer where she just sat and sat and sat and sat and sat in the nesting box, waiting to lay an egg (or sit on one[s] that had already been laid). DT would don gloves, pull her out of the box (never without a few pecks), and bring her into the backyard to try and “reset” her little brain. It took some time, but eventually the broodiness broke and she’d come running out with the other two.
Priscilla is a little squawker. I love talking to her, she’s so chatty and responsive. We’ve discovered she is the calmest and most docile of the three. They all love to sunbathe, but Priscilla is usually the first to plop down, close her eyes, and soak up the rays – and isn’t in any hurry to move. She looks like a little turkey. We have been thankful for her mild nature as we treat a case of leg mites. Yes, leg mites. We are treating our chicken for leg mites. Picture this scene: DT chases after Priscilla, grabs and holds her (she’s noisy but mostly agreeable), while I apply a petroleum jelly-coated paper towel (cocoa butter-scented, just to further paint the picture) to her legs.
Urban life with chickens, man.
Third, oh how they love FOOD. They eat and eat and eat! Bottomless pits, and they aren’t particularly picky. Some of their absolute favorite foods: saltines, seeds and ribs from bell peppers, watermelon, corn on the cob, strawberry tops, apples, scrambled eggs (Cannibalism? Hmm), bread crusts with peanut butter, grilled cheese, bacon (Uh – is that wrong? Piggy farm friends?), pizza crusts, waffles….the list goes on and on. And yes, ice cream! Girls after my own heart.
Lastly, watching chickens run is pretty much the funniest thing I have ever seen in my entire life. As I said to DT last weekend, chickens running will never not be funny. If one of the girls takes off, the other two quickly notice and break into a lumbering, tipsy tear across the yard. It’s hilarious. They definitely travel in a pack. They groom themselves obsessively, poop constantly (and without any shame or self awareness), and find enormous pleasure in rolling around in the dirt.
Regarding egg production….people always ask how many eggs we get each day. Our answer varies, but we can safely say on average, two daily. At least one, maybe even three. They continued to lay throughout the miserable winter, but the eggs would often freeze and crack, so we had to throw many of them out. There were a few dry spells where it was simply too cold and not enough daylight to produce. Lately they’ve been going crazy – two or three without fail, so we’ve been handing out eggs to our family and neighbors so our basement fridge doesn’t burst.
So, that’s the scoop on the girls! It’s been a fun adventure for all of us, we’ve learned a ton in the near-year they’ve lived here. I’ve said it a thousand times….they are strrrrrraaaaange little creatures! But we love having them around. Hanging out with them on the patio is our new favorite summer pastime.
DT and I decided to try a little something new with our run this year. The past couple of years we’ve done the Minneapolis Marathon/Half, which was suitable for the most part. The full marathon we did three years ago was pretty much a nightmare (the 26.2 miles turned out to be the easy part, if you can imagine – it was the enormous amount of rubbish along the way that completely broke our spirits). Anyway – it was nice to do a race here in the Cities, sleep in our own bed the night before/after, come home and recover, and not have any travel. But it just felt like it was time for a change.
So, we signed up for the Dam to Dam half marathon in Des Moines, DT’s beloved hometown.
We rolled into town Friday afternoon and picked up our race stuff at the convention center.
Free food and beer to fuel up for the run!
After the serious business, we met up with a couple of DT’s DSM friends at Confluence Brewing Company.
Confluence’s taproom was very lively with the Friday-after-work-it’s-the-weekend crowd.
Their Des Moines IPA was tasty.
Next up came our pre-race dinner ritual: PIZZA. When in DSM, there is no other option than Tavern, DT’s most favorite pizza on the entire planet.
Here is our steamy, ooey-gooey pepper cheese pie from heaven:
We devoured it.
As much as we wanted to flit about and party late into the night, we had to behave ourselves. Behaving is so hard sometimes, especially in such a fun town! We capped our evening at Charlie’s Filling Station with their famous freshly-squeezed OJ Screwdrivers. Ahhh! Like health in a glass (Wellll….kind of! Healthy with vodka? Okay sure).
Goooooooooooood MORNING, sunshines!
Gah! This was taken at 4:30 am – so very early! Big morning ahead.
I wish I would have had my camera to take photos of the starting line at the Saylorville Dam. It was a really beautiful spot, and the before-dawn calm was incredible.
The race started at 7:00 am with 9,000 registered runners. The route took us from the first dam, through the rural outskirts of Des Moines, into residential neighborhoods, along the Des Moines River, and we landed downtown to finish. DT and I loved the change of scenery!
We crossed the finish line, gulped down some Powerade, and [very stiffly and slowly] made our way toward Court Avenue where the farmer’s market was in full swing. Can I just tell you AGAIN how much I LOVE the Des Moines Farmer’s Market??
It was absolutely, positively the BEST energy we could have found after our 13.1-mile trek.
Run done, man!
We grew roots at Mickey’s – more Screwdrivers tasted pretty darn good. And, it was an amazing morning to be out on a patio (thankfully the sun didn’t come out during the run or we would have been on fire – it was already 70 degrees at the start, eep! We had a little drizzly rain along the way which actually felt quite nice).
A few other friends of DT’s popped in to say hello and visit.
After our refreshments and lunch, we checked into our Saturday night hotel, The Savery. We stayed here a few years ago and were glad to be back – great accommodations and a prime location downtown.
Then we napped. Ohhh, I love naps! By the time we fell asleep around 3:00 we’d already been awake over 11 hours and had run a half marathon. Whew! The R&R felt amazing.
120 beers on tap, yowza!
Such a fun place!
Our final stop of the night was over to Raccoon River Brewing Company for their delectable vanilla cream ale.
This here is like a pint of crack, it’s so so good.
Stick a fork in me, I’m DONE!
What an awesomely wonderful, albeit long, day. DT and I had a blast, that’s all there is to it.
Before leaving town Sunday, we made a trip to Hy-Vee (where shopping for groceries is simply a delight) and visited DT’s Grandma Mo. Then the long ride home.
We’re already making plans for next year’s Dam to Dam, but it’s going to be tough to top our inaugural run!