Thanksgiving Surprises

Happy Thanksgiving!

Around this time of year I always think back to one of my favorite Thanksgivings ....

It was Kirsten's (my oldest sister) first year away at college in Minnesota, and since the rest of us (mom, dad, 3 sisters) were in New Jersey, she assumed she'd be spending Tday sans immediate family (but there were tons of aunts, uncles, and cousins around). Well, little did she know we had something up our sleeve. You see, my family likes surprises. Ok, we really like surprises. And this situation just beckoned to us to create one of the best surprises in our family history by piling in the van and driving through the night to show up in Minnesota in time for turkey. Being the family that we are, we just couldn't resist such a surprise, and also the chance of celebrating Tday with Kirsten and many other relatives. So ... off we went across the Pennsylvania Turnpike and beyond in our purple van, singing Christmas songs (and trying to sleep). We now know it takes 21 hours to drive through the night from NJ to MN and that gas stations are pretty fun at 3am (at least when you're running on adrenaline). We rolled into Andover MN at 9am, a little earlier than anticipated. Someone had the idea to park down the street a ways to avoid a premature discovery of our arrival. ... in hindsight I'm not sure if this was necessary, but it made for a pretty exciting adventure -- and an entertaining video! See for yourself! (and sorry this one is not HD)


Thanksgiving Surprise from Carolyn Pierson on Vimeo.


Happy Thanksgiving! This year we are blessed to be sharing the day with my parents, sister Sarah and her boyfriend Caleb, and my Grandparents! Our house is cozy but filled with joy and thanksgiving. Where are you giving thanks today? Any memories you always think back on this day?

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Patio Progress: Phase 4

Finally our patio is officially complete! Here's how we wrapped up that project:

Although we had what looked like a finished patio in our back yard after we laid our final brick a few weeks ago, we were actually a few key steps away from completion. The main thing standing between us and a finished patio was one heavy machine: a tamper.

In order to ensure a seamless finish to your patio (no tilted or loose bricks that shift when you step on them), you need to use this extremely heavy, lawn-mower-looking machine to press all of the pavers into submission (the photo doesn't look too scary, but this beast can weigh around 70 lbs!). We definitely don't own a tamper and weren't looking forward to straining our backs by renting one at Home Depot. Besides, we didn't have a truck to haul it in. So where did we turn?

Why, Craigslist of course!

We hired a nice man from North Minneapolis who offered up his truck and manual labor for a great deal. He was a little rough around the edges and didn't really know anything about tamping a patio, but we thoroughly enjoyed his stories and couldn't have finished the project without his extra set of hands (well, he doesn't literally have an extra set of hands, but you know what I mean!).


Unfortunately, we were using pavers that couldn't quite handle the pressure -- of the tamper that is. We ended up with quite a few broken ones we then had to replace. I guess that's what happens when you order the cheapest pavers available ...


After we packed up the tamper and sent our new friend on his way, we got to work sweeping sand into the cracks of the patio. We used a special locking sand for $10 a bag (at Menards), to help hold the bricks in place and provide extra insulation from the elements.

 



We also removed the wood frame, nailed the plastic permanent frame in place (both of these were done before tamping), and filled in dirt around the entire patio. But I didn't get a picture of the finished product because ...

... before I was ready, our backyard looked like this:



Well patio, we'll see you next spring!

Read about the entire Patio Project, here, here, and here!

tamper photo taken from here

Got Yogurt?

We are big yogurt eaters. Perhaps it has something to do with Evan growing up on a farm, or my parents fostering my love of yogurt since a young age (I think my dad even made his own yogurt at some point). But whatever the reason, we consume a whopping 10 little 6 oz. yogurts and 1-2 big 32 oz. yogurts a week. That's 92-124 oz -- in other-words, a heckuva lota yogurt! For a while we bought cheaper brands of yogurt because we found it hard to justify spending 30 cents more per 6 oz (89 cents @ Target), and almost a dollar more per 32 oz. But ever since Evan tried his first bite of Stonyfield French Vanilla a little over a year ago -- he was sold. Which was perfect, because I was already head-over-heels!


And now we're reaping the benefits of eating the yogurt -- quite literally! Of course it's already well known that consuming yogurt on a daily basis (especially kinds that are organic and free of high-fructose corn syrup) is good for your health (read more about that here). But with Stonyfield, there are all kinds of other benefits. Like:



Did I lose you somewhere?

Let me back up a second. About a year ago, Stonyfield started putting these codes on their lids


that you can enter online here. Each code gives you a point -- well actually the 6 oz. yogurts earn you one point, and the 32 oz. ones give you four. It seems like it would take forever to earn a reward, but if you are crazy yogurt gobblers like us, you can get 18 points in one week -- which is just two points shy of a free 32 oz. yogurt! When our free yogurt coupon arrives in the mail, we usually truck on over to Lund's, one of the few stores that carries our favorite Banilla. Lund's is pricier than our frequented Target, so we save Banilla for the coupons!

In the past year we've also snagged a years subscription to Whole Living Magazine (formerly Body & Soul) for 60 points. And our biggest reward to date: a Patagonia backpack, priced at $69, for 350 points!



Now, if your only reason for upgrading to this yogurt was to receive these rewards, it wouldn't actually be worth it. We did some calculations on our end and discovered we spent about $105 in our yogurt upgrade before we were eligible to receive the $69-priced backpack. But if you simply love good-quality yogurt and would consider buying the higher-end stuff anyway, why not stock your fridge with the kind that says Thank You every once in a while?



Random E & C Yogurt Trivia 

We went through a stage where we made our own yogurt. It works pretty well actually when you use this little helper (ours looks pretty similar ... we call him R2D2). But it takes quite a bit of time and you kind of need to have a system down. I hope to start that up again one of these days. Maybe after Stonyfield ends their rewards program!

We try and use yogurt in our meals every once in a while. Stoneyfield has a great recipe website. When we make smoothies they are always yogurt based. My favorite smoothie consists of a little orange juice, lots of vanilla yogurt (or plain with honey), frozen berries, and right before you are finished blending -- add a banana. But what makes the perfect smoothie? Popping in a few ice cubes of frozen mango juice!

How the heck do we eat so much yogurt? We always pack a little yogurt in our lunch, and then C typically has yogurt and granola before bed, and E enjoys a bowl a few times a week. C also eats yogurt on pancakes and add it to hot cereals -- yea a little crazy I know.

C's yogurt of choice: when at home, Stonyfield Plain, lowfat (fat free has a weird consistency) mixed with some honey, frozen blueberries, and homemade granola. When on-the-go: smooth and creamy raspberry or fruit-on-the-bottom blueberry.

E's yogurt of choice: when at home, Stonyfield Vanilla, lowfat (not a fan of fat free) either alone or mixed with some granola. On the go: fruit-on-the-bottom strawberry or else vanilla. But his runner-up favorite yogurt choice sings quite a different tune:



What are your yogurt habits? Have you ever tried making your own? Do you like the simplicity of plain yogurt or do you go crazy over exotic and fun flavors? If you don't fit into any of the categories below, feel free to leave a comment explaining your yogurt preferences and habits!






WHAT'S YOUR YOGURT STYLE?


Banilla Stonyfield photo taken from here, magazine photo from here, and backpack photo from here. Yogurt code photo taken by C and edited in Photoshop, and army of yogurts taken by C. YoCrunch photo taken from here.



Patio Progress: Phase 3

I left you a couple of weeks ago as we were laying pavers down the walkway of our patio (and you can read about the first phase here). The third phase of our big project involved a lot more sand hauling,



navigating a tricky corner,


(here's a quick video demonstrating Denny's knack for leveling sand! From earlier in the project - you can hear Evan operating the chop saw in the background)
video

and basically making the most perfectly level "sandbox" I have ever seen!

Later that night E and I decided we were ready to check this patio off our to-do list, so out we went into the night (with a handy work-lamp perched in the windowsill so we could navigate the dark and work on into the night without fear of crooked lines).

When you are laying pavers you aren't supposed to apply any extra weight to the bricks (not until you tamp them down that is), so we had to get creative and use our old closet doors to distribute our weight as we sprawled out to reach the middle of the patio.


By the next morning (and no, we didn't work straight through the night!) we were ready to lay our final brick!


(imagine big smiles and corny high fives, celebrating the almost finished project we've been tackling since August). Well, we still had to finish up our one tricky edge, which would involve more cutting of bricks to fill in the gaps.


But that was a project for another day -- and another post.

Check back soon for our final installment of the Patio! It involves some heavy machinery, a helpful Craigslister from North Minneap, and a little broom-action.

Home Remedies

I have a little secret I'm going to share with you:




These two little items are my cold-battling weapons. Just last Monday I noticed I was starting to get a cold, so I whipped out these two items and put them to work. I still suffered from some cold symptoms, but for the most part, the brunt of my cold only lasted for TWO DAYS! By Thursday I was feeling fine:
scratchy throat? gone
stuffy head? what stuffy head?
persistent congestion? hasta la vista!

Propolis Echinacea is a throat spray and quite possibly the most disgusting thing I have tasted in my life. It has a really bitter taste that almost makes you gag at first, but by now I've actually gotten used to it. If you spray right at the onset of a scratchy throat you can wake up the next morning in tip-top shape. You can find it in health stores (such as WholeFoods) or online for around $10. Read more about it here and here.

NeilMed Sinus Rinse is basically the same as its more well known cousin, NeilMed: The Netty Pot. Except this new version is much easier and tidier to use. You fill the container with warm water, add the sinus rinse packet, and then shoot it up into your nose -- but make sure you're over the sink because the rinse (and any gross congestion) will run out the other nostril or mouth! My coworker has used the sinus rinse regularly for the last few years and says she's even noticed a decrease in allergy symptoms. It's worth a shot! And kind of fun in a gross sort of way .... Check it out here, and if you're really curious, watch this youtube video:


I know, a random topic to write a blog post on, but something that is a regular part of my life. I use the sinus rinse twice a day during allergy season or if I'm fighting a cold! And the throat spray I have ready to grab from the hall closet whenever I feel the onset of a scratchy throat.

Here's to staying healthy this winter!

...it was a Monster Mash!

Happy Halloween from the Pierson house!
Why that's Waldo on the left and an arctic spelunker on the right, of course!
We've started picking out our costumes by giving ourselves 5 minutes in the closet the night of Oct 31... it's like a Halloween challenge! Last year this is what we came up with.

After enjoying some "witches stew" (while answering the door for trick-or-treaters of course)

taking a knife to one of our home-grown pumpkins! 
I went with a somewhat unconventional pattern this year ...

And whipping up some of Evan's special Apple Crisp (we have rivaling recipes!)
while listening to Monster Mash on repeat
We were finally ready for Halloween:

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