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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Home Renovation Weekend

Since it's been another pretty busy summer for us, we've been lacking a little in the home renovation department. This weekend we wanted to get back into the swing of things and start getting more done around here.

Friday, Trent started in on sanding the hallway floor again, but his hand sander finally "bit the dust", literally and figuratively. That put us on hold for a day or so, and Saturday morning we went into town to get the supplies we needed to finish the hallway, including a new hand sander.

We spent a good deal of time in Menards gathering up all of our supplies, and we also found a good deal on a patio set, and ended up taking one home! Just $380 for the table and chairs - and the chairs are swivel-rocking chairs, so they're super comfy.

The only thing we didn't get yet was a new patio umbrella. Our current one is pretty faded and is getting a little worn out. So we'd like to find a new umbrella that we like, and maybe a few outdoor pillows to brighten things up a little bit.

Saturday after we got home, we had the twins' birthday party across the street, where we cooked out and took a dip in the pool. When we got back home, we put the new patio set together and called it a night. We're pretty excited about it, but we have a lot more that we'd like to do out here eventually.

This morning, we were back at the indoor renovations. Trent's been sanding the hallway floor for a few hours now, finishing it up. We're hoping later this afternoon we can get it all cleaned up and start applying the floor sealer.

I've been cleaning the kitchen - giving the stove and ceiling fan a good deep clean, and I touched up the paint on the cabinets. It's amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do to brighten things up a little bit!

I gave my flowers a little plant food today, but they've been doing pretty well this summer, with the good amount of rain we've gotten.

We've had 100+ degree heat indexes this week though, so we're trying to stick to indoor projects as much as possible. Hopefully by the end of the week, we'll be making good progress on the hallway renovation, which has been years in the making. I love getting stuff done around the house and seeing the fruits of our labor. :)

Stay tuned later in the week for an update (I hope!)!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

My Latest Discovery: The Apple News App

I've been an Apple user for several years now, and I've had an iPhone since 2013. But I've just recently discovered the News app that comes standard with the iPhone. (And yes, the Podcast app was another recent discovery of mine. Where have these apps been all of my life?) 

I discovered it by "sliding my screen over to the right" one day, then scrolling down to find a bunch of news headlines.  It was in June right after the Orlando shooting happened, and I saw a headline about it, so I clicked on it. It took me to a news article about the shooting, and from there I started exploring the app and finding other articles that interested me.

Since then I've been taking a few minutes almost every night to read a few articles, or save new ones to read later.

What I like about the app is that you can customize it to your specific interests. If you like traveling, or sports, or art/ design, you can search for these topics, which then appear in your "Favorites" screen, and the app finds stories and articles related to your favorite topics. Here's a small portion of my Favorites page for example:

Since I've been planning our Colorado vacation this coming August, I've read a lot of articles related to Colorado and National Parks lately! The articles that the app collects for you, are all under the "For You" tab.

A lot of times, I will save an interesting article I see by swiping the headline over to the left, and clicking on "Save". I'll then go over to my "Saved" tab, and click on the articles as I want to read them.

If I want to go back to an article I read the other day to reference something, I can either leave it in my "Saved" list, or I can go to my "History", and every article I've visited / read is listed there. 

I mean, who doesn't want to read 17 random facts about "Gilmore Girls" before heading off to bed?

Seriously though, whether you prefer to use this app for entertainment, travel planning, acquiring knowledge, or to check the latest top news stories - or all of the above like I do - I've found it to be a pretty cool and useful little app once you start customizing it to your interests. It's now on my home screen and I check it just about as much as my Weather app these days. Thanks, Apple! :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Fun in Wisconsin: Summerfest and New Glarus

More travel stuff today! This past weekend we went up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the last weekend of Summerfest. It was our first time ever going to this music festival, and wow, was there a lot of people there! The crowds were crazy, and it was huge! But, it was all worth it - we had a great time, and we saw a ton of amazing bands perform.

The main reason we wanted to go to Summerfest was because we found out that Mindi Abair would be performing there, and she is actually a distant cousin of mine! My aunt and uncle have mentioned her several times over the years and are big fans of her music. She's a great saxophone player, and performed at Summerfest this year with her band, The Boneshakers.

Until this weekend, I had never seen Mindi play or met her in person. It was really cool to see her perform, and we even got to meet her and chat a little after the show. She was so nice and friendly! I bought a couple of her CDs there, and she happily signed them and left her contact info. We hope to see her play again sometime.

The same night we saw Mindi play, we also got to see The Fray. We didn't have the greatest view, but it was pretty cool, and they still sounded awesome.

The next day we drove down by the festival again, and ate lunch at a cool little place on the lake called the Milwaukee Sail Loft. There was a dock literally right next to our table, and to top it off, the food was amazing. I think I ate the best caesar salad I've ever had!

After lunch we went to Summerfest again, and hung out there in the afternoon. We rode the ski lift ride from one end of the grounds to the other...

We rode the ferris wheel...

Sat on the rocks by the lake...

Trent "test-drove" a Harley (that was stationed to the ground)...

And I totally ate a watermelon-flavored Hawaiian Shave Ice. It was a fun day, and the weather was perfect!

The night was great, too. We had tickets for the Weezer concert, and we saw so many great bands play that night. Andrew McMahon opened up for Panic at the Disco and Weezer, and I love him! He's one of my favorite artists of all time. It was surreal to finally be able to see him perform live, and he had so much energy.

The view from outside the concert arena was also pretty awesome. During Panic at the Disco, we stepped out for a little while to enjoy it. We could see the lights, the lake, the sunset, and the huge crowd forming in front of us for Barenaked Ladies.

It was especially awesome to see the fireworks that were shot off over the lake. We were totally not expecting to see them, but it was definitely a cool moment!

We left Weezer a little early and got to see some of the other bands playing that night, too - as in: Barenaked Ladies, Death Cab for Cutie, Skillet, and ended the night with Ben Folds! All in all, a great night, and a great couple of days at Summerfest.

Then, on the way home the next day, Trent really wanted to go through New Glarus and stop by the brewery there. It was a tad out of our way, but I'm glad we took the little detour. New Glarus was a charming little Swedish town in the Wisconsin countryside.

We ate lunch at a cute bed-and-breakfast-looking restaurant on a hill called Kristi's.

We enjoyed some yummy breakfast food outside on the porch.

My veggie omelet, toast with locally-made raspberry jam, and coffee were all pretty awesome.

Since we had to get moving, we didn't have a lot of time to explore or go into a lot of the shops, but I would love to come back here someday and spend a whole day here.

We did go into one of the giftshops, and it had a lot of Swedish and European-inspired items. It was pretty cool to explore, but I really wanted to stop into some of the cheese and chocolate shops, too. Maybe next time! Aren't the buildings cute, though?!

Our last stop on our trip was the New Glarus Brewery. Of course Trent loves visiting breweries, but this was actually a really cool place.

The facility was really nice - you can go on a self-guided tour, and visit the gift shops and the huge beer store with limited edition brews...

But the best part was the tastings and the outdoor area. For $8, you can get a tasting glass and 3 samples of their beers on tap. The samples are good sized, and once you get one, you can wander around the facility, inside or in their awesome outside area.

There is an amazing view of the countryside of New Glarus.

There are tables everywhere, spaced out and secluded enough so that you can hang out and enjoy your beer samples. We explored a little bit, and with the beautiful landscaping and view, the entire area was really cool.

On the way out of the brewery, we stopped by the hop garden. It's a little garden out front with hop plants, and some beautiful flowers.

If you're ever in central Wisconsin, I definitely recommend a stop in New Glarus to check out the brewery and the quaint downtown area.

We had a great little trip overall. Now the next vacation will be...COLORADO, In August! We can't wait. All hotels are booked, and the planning is in full force. This is shaping up to be a pretty eventful and memorable summer. Now, if only we could get some work on the house done... :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Fourth of July Weekend, Part 2

Hello friends! It's time for the final installment of our Fourth of July weekend extravaganza. (See Part 1 here). 

After Saturday night's festivities, Sunday morning we woke up bright and early to head up to Haley and Dan's new house in Geneva. They recently moved from one Chicago burb to the next burb over. And they officially bought their first house! 

Since we were too busy in Missouri to help them move in last weekend, we went up on Sunday and helped decorate. A.K.A., we hung anything and everything on the walls! Hammering, screwdriver-ing, it was all a good time. And we even finished beautifying the living room with a new gallery wall.

We did take a few moments to have fun, though. Haley and Dan showed us a little around downtown Geneva, and we got to explore the town, which is super cute and charming. 

We walked along the Fox River, which was a gorgeous and scenic area. Looks picturesque - like it was out of a painting! There were tons of cool-looking restaurants and bars around the downtown area, so we hope to go back and try some of them.

We did try one new place, called Doughocracy. It was kind of a fast-food pizza restaurant, but the pizza was pretty awesome. You can either choose all of your toppings and make a completely customizable pizza, or choose from their pre-selected options.

My pizza is the green one - It might look scary, but it was delicious. Pesto, cheese, zucchini and eggplant. Delish!

It was fun visiting Haley and Dan and seeing their cute new home. We even got to catch some of the fireworks that night after the baseball game down the street ended - a nice little surprise! We headed home that night to get back to our pupper, but it was a fun day in the Chicago burbs.

The night of the Fourth, Trent and I hung out at his aunt and uncle's, grilled out there, then we all made our way over to the Galva fireworks. As always, they were purdy!

We always sit super close to where they set off the fireworks, so it feels like they are going to fall right on us! A perfect way to end the holiday weekend.

Now, please excuse me while I enjoy the little time I have left to sit around and do nothing, before it's off to the next adventure! This coming weekend, we are headed to Milwaukee for a little Summerfest fun. Another busy summer weekend, but hopefully another good one. Until next time...

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Dave Matthews and Fourth of July Weekend, Part 1

We are officially in the midst of summer. With so much going on, we're kind of starting to feel like we don't have a single free weekend in sight! And do we have a spare moment to work on home improvement projects? Nope. Nada. Hopefully soon..

In the mean time, let's start after we got back from the Missouri trip. The Tuesday after we got back was the Dave Matthews concert.  They actually played in the Quad Cities for the first time we could even remember, and since it was actually local, there was no chance we would miss it - even if it was on a Tuesday night.

We stood on the floor and had a great view of the concert. Our friends Leo and Kayla were on the floor with us, and it was their first Dave concert! We stood for maybe 5 hours, and the concert got over at 11:00. Needless to say by the end, my back was killing me and I was hungry and thirsty, and everything you could imagine! And not to mention, a little tired the next day. But it was all worth it.

Dave put on a great show as always, and it's crazy to think that this was my 8th show - Trent's 9th! It just gets better every time.

This show was really reminiscent of the Wrigley Field show for us back in 2010 - we were so close for that one, too, and right on the field. If you can get past the little annoyances that being on the floor can give you (like not being able to get back to your same spot if you want to leave or go to the bathroom, rude people making their way up right in front of you in the middle of the concert, etc.), I still recommend doing it at least once, especially for Dave. It's amazing to see it all live and up close!

After attempting to recover from the concert night while working the rest of the week, the following Saturday night was our friends Sean and Nicole's Fourth of July party. It was a great time, complete with walking tacos, our own fireworks, bags, beer pong, and tequila shots. But all kid-friendly - and Trent and I were kind of the DJ's. It was a good time.

Trent lit off some fireworks that we picked up in Missouri and we had our own mini fireworks show.

We just made sure to look out for the power lines and incoming cars first. :)

It was a good start to our Fourth of July weekend. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our patriotic weekend soon, which includes our mini trip up to see my sister Haley and her husband Dan's new house in the 'burbs, and our annual little local fireworks show!

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