2016 – Things We Learned

Grandchildren are the best, aren’t they?

  • Emma turned one last January (1/18) and celebrated at the Bounce House and Valentino’s with pizza and cake. She toddles around, loves her pets, and always has a smile on her face.
  • August turned 1 in September (9/27) and celebrated with a space-themed party on Grimsrud Way in Rushford. He loves the kitties, the Zoo, dancing, bath time, books and bubbles. He’s always on the move! We Skype frequently and I love the smiles when we talk!
  • Kaydee just turned 5 (12/11) and we had her favorite foods and birthday cake while playing with the pink tractor she wanted for her birthday! She loves to learn and is so fun to talk to!

Our “children” are now all “adult children”!

  • Marissa turned 28 in February, Tyler turned 24 in October, Sierra turned 20 in August and Kevin turned 18 in November!

Retirement looks like fun!

  • We celebrated the “Permanent Vacation” of Mom and Dad Grimsrud in February with a tropical themed family gathering. They spent 6 weeks after basketball season in the warmth of Florida and with the sale of Grimsrud Way this December they downsized to a townhome in Rochester, and are looking forward to the ease of worry-free travels and living!

Family Time is Precious!

  •  We had a few weekends where we could all get together at French Lake this summer. The cabin hasn’t expanded to fit the growing family, but there are tents pitched, a new platform on the dock, and air mattresses galore, so we make it work. Memorial Day, Father’s Day and the Fourth of July were familyfun-filled.
  • August’s birthday and Thanksgiving were the last big events at Grimsrud Way. When we’re together, we always eat well, laugh a lot, play games, and enjoy each other’s company. That won’t change, wherever we gather!

Friendships are so valuable and valued!

  • Cosmo Girls continue to meet monthly September to May since 2010 – we learn and grow together, and laugh – a LOT!
  • Ferragosto at French Lake has been a yearly tradition since 2010, as well! This year was rainy, which meant more books and movies, but the time spent with friends is always appreciated!
  • Marissa said “YES” to the dress at the first bridal salon and then spent a fun day with girlfriends picking out bridesmaid dresses – the wedding in Cancun is coming up quickly!
  • Trips to the MN State Fair, the MN Zoo, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Little Mermaid, chick flicks, book club, or quick walks and lunches. SO thankful for my many girlfriends!

We love adventures – big and small!

  • We got our passports in 2016, so we are ready for international travel! We broke them in by visiting Canada twice (Thunder Bay, ON in June and Niagara Falls, ON/Montreal, QE in October) and are getting ready for Mexico in May. We look forward to working on our international bucket list!
  • Chris’s birthday wish was to go “Up North” – I guess he’s fully Minnesotan now??? We road-tripped to Grand Marais and Duluth, exploring the North Shore of Lake Superior. This was our first venture into Canada – Thunder Bay for Tim Horton’s lunch on Chris’s birthday! Great food (Betty’s Pies! Gunflint Tavern! Grandma’s Saloon! Amazing Grace!), beautiful accommodations and perfect weather for sightseeing… we do travel well!
  • MINI Takes the States 2016 – a coast-to-coast motoring adventure for MINI COOPER owners – went through MINIapolis this summer and we joined in the festivities for the day! We met MINI owners from Minnesota and beyond. It happens every 2 years, so we hope to join more fully in 2018! This year our 2 week road trip to New England was a priority!
  • Road Trip! Driving the MINI to New England was a whirlwind tour, to be sure – we were on the go! We stayed in Niagara Falls and Montreal before heading in to New Hampshire to spend time with Dad Walsh and Jen and her family; we stayed in a mountain lodge in the White Mountains, we drove up mountains and on beautiful scenic byways. We had a great time with extended family (Chris’s maternal aunts and uncles, paternal aunt and granny), visited friends Tony and Tien in Rhode Island, and spent a few days in NYC with Troy. In RI we toured the Vanderbilt mansion, The Breakers, and walked in beautiful old neighborhoods. In NYC we saw two Broadway shows (Fiddler on the Roof and Waitress), saw the New York Public Library, the Strand Bookstore, the Museum of Natural History, ate at Carnegie Deli one last time before they close, and walked a LOT.
  • A few things we learned on our road trip:
    • Chris wants to pass ALL the cars on the road. He drove most of the time, including into and out of NYC. A skilled driver he is! No “souvenir” speeding tickets obtained!
    • Chris was right about the fall foliage in New England being unlike anything we see around Minnesota.
    • Flip-flops are great travel shoes.
    • I always over-pack.
    • Bunk-beds only sound appealing in theory.
    • EZ Pass is the way to go.
    • A road trip playlist for daily listening is an excellent idea!
    • But, I still would make up words to the songs, even after 12+ days of listening to them!

Working these crazy shift jobs means more days off without using PTO!

  • Chris has been working at Land O’Lakes for more than 4 years now. He is working 12 hour overnights (5P-5A) as a cheese dryer operator – one of four operators making the cheese powder for Cheetos! He works every other weekend, so time off during the week gives us opportunity for some of our many adventures.
  • Chris spent a good portion of November serving as a juror on the US District Court in Minneapolis. He spent 11 days in court, so missed about 8 days of work. He enjoyed the metropolitan lifestyle for a while and learned a little about non-compete clauses.
  • I have been working at Mayo Clinic for 5 years this January (2017), still in the Emergency Department. It’s a 24/7 job, so there is opportunity for a variety of 12 hour shifts, and every 3rd weekend means days off during the week with Chris = #dayofftogetherness. We can run to the Cities to see Marissa (or August) on a Wednesday night, or get tickets to events or touring plays during the week (If/Then or Louis CK), see late-night movies, or have epic dates on a Tuesday. So far it’s working.

Can’t Cure Chris of his Car Craze

  • Chris learned that his Honda CRZ did not hold its value.
  • He thought he’d keep it forever (or longer than 18 months) but he is now driving a Toyota 4Runner.
  • He has great ideas for modifying the MINI Cooper, but I’m fine with my Pumpkin as she is.

Ever learning, we are! We can’t wait to experience the adventures of 2017. We hope that you and yours have a blessed holiday season and that 2017 brings you joy and happiness! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Image result for happy new year

The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart

If you know me, you know I love authors.  I love to listen to them talk about their books, about their writing process, about their view the world, about the books the love to read.  I’m also loyal to authors.  If I like a book, I will continue to follow that author to see what they will come up with next.

If you know me, you also know I’ve been in a reading slump – planning a wedding and getting married takes a lot of brain power and time!  So when Nicole Baart, (an author I’ve followed since I read her book The Moment Between in 2009) posted on Facebook that she was looking for members of a “street team” for her newest book, The Beautiful Daughters, I applied!  The opportunity to read an Advanced Reader’s Copy, offer it for a giveaway, and then to receive a copy of the book when it is published on April 28, 2015 – I love stuff like that!  I was tickled to be chosen for her Street Team and for The Beautiful Daughters to be the first book I read in 2015.  Bonus:  She sent her favorite chocolates, book marks, signed book plates, and homemade soap made receipt of the package even sweeter!

Below is the description of the book from the Digital Catalog at Atria Publishing (a branch of Simon and Schuster), the tentative cover design, and a little info about Nicole Baart, the author.

Below that is my review and details on how you can get your hands on my ARC!!

The Beautiful Daughters – 

The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart

The Beautiful Daughters
by Nicole Baart

From the author of Sleeping in Eden, described as “intense and absorbing from the very first page” (Heather Gudenkauf, author of The Weight of Silence), comes a gripping new novel about two former best friends and the secrets they can’t escape.

Adrienne Vogt and Harper Penny were closer than sisters, until the day a tragedy blew their seemingly idyllic world apart. Afraid that they got away with murder and unable to accept who they had lost—and what they had done—Harper and Adri exiled themselves from small-town Blackhawk, Iowa, and from each other. Adri ran thousands of miles away to Africa while Harper ventured down a more destructive path closer to home.

Now, five years later, both are convinced that nothing could ever coax them out of the worlds in which they’ve been living. But unexpected news from home soon pulls Adri and Harper back together, and the two cannot avoid facing their memories and guilt head-on. As they are pulled back into the tangle of their fractured relationships and the mystery of Piperhall, the sprawling estate where their lives first began to unravel, secrets and lies behind the tragic accident are laid bare. The former best friends are forced to come to terms with their shared past and search for the beauty in each other while mending the brokenness in themselves.

Nicole Baart’s lush and lyrical writing has been called “sparkling” (Publishers Weekly), “taut and engrossing” (Booklist), and “evocative and beautiful” (Romantic Times). The Beautiful Daughters is another exquisitely rendered, haunting story that will stay with readers long after the last page.


Nicole BaartNicole Baart is the mother of four children from four different countries. The cofounder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, she lives in a small town in Iowa. She is the author of seven previous novels, including, most recently, Sleeping in Eden. Find out more at NicoleBaart.com.

My review:

I really enjoyed this book.  I love books with rich character development.  I love beautiful descriptions.  This book has all that, plus a suspenseful plot with insight into how tragedy affects people.  The book also tackles sensitive topics, but I don’t want to spoil the suspense.

Some of the passages that I re-read and bent the pages for include:

Regarding Adri’s father, Sam:

“Her father was one such daydreamer, the kind of man who spoke volumes in silences and heard God whisper in the song of distant stars keeping watch over the land that he plowed.”

Regarding Adri’s fiance’, David:

“In his personal life he was sensible and composed, able to take up and set aside the mantle of a playboy as easily as donning a coat.  To laugh and joke and drink until his imposing mother slipped into the room, a quiet and watchful revenant whose presence instantly sobered and reined in her son.”

Regarding The Five:

“Jackson was hand in hand with Nora, a new girlfriend who didn’t quite fit.  Harper couldn’t help resenting her.  When Nora was around, they were quick to pair up, but when it was just the five of them, they were a unit.  A fist clenched tight.”

This book is about young adults who meet at a small college in Blackhawk, Iowa.  Adri and her brother Will grew up on a farm in Blackhawk, and David grew up at Piperhall, a mansion down the road.  Along with Harper and Jackson, The Five become fast friends and spend most of their out-of-school time playing grown-up at Piperhall and when Harper suggests a trip to commemorate their college graduation and mark endings and new beginnings, they are unaware of the tragic event that will happen and change their lives forever.  They scatter – Adri to Africa and Harper into dark relationships – and are called home five years later when the matriarch of Piperhall dies.

This is a page-turner and I’m so thankful it was the first book I read in 2015!

Now, to get your hands on my Advanced Readers Copy, please COMMENT BELOW with the FIRST BOOK YOU READ OR ARE READING in 2015!  If you share this blog post on Facebook or Twitter (and share the link), you 10933699_10152994556774210_1188091013014551439_nwill get extra entries!

I’ll pick a winner WEDNESDAY JANUARY 28.

A Sense of Connection: LaoTong

Cover of "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan:...

Cover of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel

Almost two weeks ago I went with my friend Cindy to see the movie “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.”  We are both Lisa See fans and read this book in preparation of seeing the movie this summer… and then thought we’d be renting it (ala “Jane Eyre”) but it came to Rochester with an Independent Movie Series!  Yay!

We both agreed that it was a beautiful movie, even with the modern storyline which wasn’t part of the book.  The book tells the story of two girls who are matched to be LaoTongs, or Old Sames, at a young age.  Wikipedia and Lisa See (the author) describe LaoTongs in this way:

Lao Tong or Old Sames was a more rare and formal relationship between women and was exclusive and life-long. Women of suitable birthdays, ages, backgrounds and birth-signs would be paired this way in a bond of exclusive sisterhood that would last a lifetime and would survive marriage, child-birth and widow-hood. A Lao Tong relationship would be rarely renounced or broken. (Wikipedia)

“A laotong match is as significant as a good marriage,” Lily’s aunt explained. “A laotong relationship is made by choice for the purpose of emotional companionship and eternal fidelity. A marriage is not made by choice and has only one purpose – to have sons.” “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” is the story of such a friendship. (Lisa See)

I haven’t been paired with an Old Same since birth, but I do have friendships with amazing women that have survived (ha!) marriages and children and distance.  I also see great value in creating meaningful relationships and maintaining connections with them.  After I read “The Girls from Ames” I set out to create a group of women that meets monthly to create a real-life network of amazing women, to learn from each other and support each other.  We are in our second year and our time together is something I look forward to each month!

The Chinese women sworn to be Old Sames used a secret women’s language – nushu – to communicate with each other.  We use Facebook, email, or phone calls to maintain connection with those who live a distance away, or we use walks, dinners, or girls’ night out to maintain and grow connections with those we can have more frequent contact with. No need to send servants between villages and households with secret language written on fans, but we can write letters to be delivered by the US Postal Service.

With the release of the DVD on 11/1, many book clubs are having LaoTong Nights – groups of women getting together to watch the movie and discuss their female friendships and the things they do (or can do) to maintain connections.  Below is the information they are encouraging people to think about and discuss as they think about their friendships and watch “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.”

What would you add to the list below?  Have you ever planned a way to reconnect with someone you lost touch with?

Lily and Snow Flower had an intense friendship that lasted a lifetime.  Nushu helped them communicate and remain close, even in distance.  Everyone has that old friend they have known for a long time, yet find it hard to keep in touch.  Both get busy with their separate lives and don’t take the time to catch up with one another.  In honor of Snow Flower and the Secret Fancoming to Blu-ray and DVD November 1st, here’s a guide for keeping in touch with your besties, through whatever life may put between you.

Write Letters

There’s nothing like a handwritten letter to let someone know that you care and are thinking about them. Make a point of writing to your long-distance friend at least once a month, and giving them updates on what’s going on in your life, and asking what’s new in their life. If you’re so inclined, you can include photos or other small tokens of your friendship with your letters. This simple, heartfelt update will go a long way in making your friendship last.

Take a Trip Together

If it’s within both of your budgets, you and your bestie should take a trip together! Meet up in different places each year – places that are either meaningful to you both, or places that you two have always wanted to visit together. Have a weekend in Las Vegas, a week at the theme parks in Orlando, a glamorous trip to Hollywood, or a long, restful weekend in New England. Making new memories (or reliving old ones) will help keep your friendship vibrant.

Skype

One of the greatest inventions for modern day friendships is Skype. Making a weekly or biweekly “Skype date” can give you a chance to both talk to and see your long-distance friend on a regular basis. Best of all, Skype is free to use, even if you’re video-chatting someone internationally! Skype is great because, in addition to getting to hear your friend’s voice, you can also actually show them what’s new with you, or do something new together!

Start an Online Photo Album

There are so many different ways to share photos online these days, and you and your friend should take advantage of that! You can make a private album that only the two of you can access (you can do this on Facebook, PhotoBucket, etc.), and then you can both upload and comment on each other’s photos and keep up with what’s going on in each other’s lives.

Send Each Other Gifts

If you’re ever out shopping and see a little something that reminds you of your friend, or something you think your friend would love, why not send it to them? With USPS’ Flat Rate Boxes, you can send as much as you want to your long-distance friend for a small fee. Why not make a care package, filled with things you know they like (like homemade treats, or products specific to your area that they can’t get where they live)? If you exchange small gifts every few months, it will remind your friend that you’re thinking about them, and help you two stay friends forever.