Mrs. Menne in the Mrs. Minnesota Pageant

I have seen the reality TV shows about pageants and have watched my fair share of Miss America pageants on TV but never really had an interest in pageants. Although they weren’t pageants in high school I was a part of the homecoming court and later ran for Rice County Fair Queen. I didn’t win a crown with either of those but had fun along the way.

Many years later as a mom of 7 spending my days pushing a double stroller and taking care of my kiddos I never thought of myself as pageant material but after reading the local newspaper gave it a second thought. I read about the Mrs. Minnesota International pageant seeking contestants for Mrs. Sibley County and chatted with a friend about it. She thought it wasn’t a crazy idea and even encouraged me to go for it. I researched a bit about the pageant. As cited on their website, “The Mrs. Minnesota International Pageant showcases the many accomplishments of Minnesota’s married women. Her multiple roles of wife, mother, professional and community volunteer are recognized and celebrated.” After reading their website and their mission “To Make a Difference,” I thought it just might be a good fit for me. Although I felt nervous about it I talked to my husband about it and expected him to think it was a bit crazy but he was so incredibly encouraging.

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Photo by HMD Photography 

Although my husband was busy preparing to be away for military training he took the time to double check the deadline and supported me in the application process. With the encouragement and support of my friend & my husband I was happy to throw my hat in the ring for a chance to represent the amazing people of Sibley County. I would be proud to represent such caring, strong, hardworking people. We all roll-up our sleeves to help out others, we work together to do what the community needs, we take the time to go the extra mile. My application shared information about me including my husband, family life and what I enjoy spending time on. It also included my message to “Get Involved.” Small towns like the one I live in is successful because so many people step up to help out. It takes the help of everyone to make things happen. Everyone working together is the very reason I love where I live.

 

Mrs. Sibley County

Weeks later I received an official letter from the pageant director that I was chosen to be Mrs. Sibley County International 2018. I was shocked and excited. I was later presented with a banner and crown and was very honored to represent Sibley County.

Mrs. Sibley County with Crown 2

Photo by HMD Photography

As Mrs. Sibley County International I was also able to be a contestant in the 2019 Mrs. Minnesota International pageant so I quickly began the application process once again. This time around my service platform needed to be a non-profit so I chose one I had a lot of experience with, ‘Choice & Innovation in Public Education.’ I also had to obtain sponsors for my pageant entrance fee. I was nervous about this; however, friends and local businesses were so kind and generous in their support. I quickly raised the money required and began preparing for the pageant.

Mrs. Minnesota Contestant

The Mrs. Minnesota International pageant includes three areas; interview, evening gown, and fitness wear. The interview is 50% of the score whereas evening gown and fitness wear are 25% of the score. I ordered my fitness wear (everyone wears the same fitness wear), found a dress that would fit me (I would be competing 33 weeks pregnant), and read through the packet of information to prepare for the interview. I also created a ‘pitch book.’ The Pitch book is a three-ring binder which includes the contestant application, sponsors, head shot, family photos, resume, volunteer work, newspaper clippings with contestant, the contestant’s platform statement, platform website, personal website & information regarding the current Mrs. Minnesota.

Before I knew it April 28thwas here and my husband and I were heading up to St. Paul to the Mrs. Minnesota International Pageant. Ready or not it was pageant weekend!

The Mrs. Minnesota International Pageant

Friday April 27th

We arrived at the pageant hotel and got checked into our room. Shortly after we headed over to the Wellstone Center for pageant check in at 4pm. We were a bit early but we used the time to meet other contestants. (This pageant also includes Miss Minnesota, Miss Teen Minnesota and Miss Pre-Teen Minnesota.) They collected all paperwork as well as pitch books and volunteer service resumes. My husband and I don’t get dates for dinner with just the two of us so we took advantage of the dinner break to go to a nice restaurant. After dinner, we attended the pageant orientation. It was great to meet everyone had have our questions answered. The pageant director was so kind and all of the staff were amazing. We even had drawings for prizes and each received a lovely ‘swag bag’ which the sweetest items to help us remember this special weekend. After orientation, the rehearsals started at 8pm which gave us a chance to get more comfortable on the stage. We were able to figure out spacing, walks, practice with the microphones, etc. This was when I first got to talk with the other contestants and really get to know them. It was a ton of fun despite the heels. After rehearsals, it was back to the hotel for some rest.

Saturday April 28th

Personal interviews started at 9am but what time your actual interview was depending upon your number drawn. I was with the first group so I got my interview done right

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Photo by                           Paula Preston Photography

away. I was actually pretty excited for this part because I like to talk and am very passionate about my platform. Many people say this is the hardest part of the pageant but I disagree. It’s just a conversation with people.

 

The interviews were held at our hotel which was really nice. We just had to get up to the correct conference room and we were set. I walked into the room and saw the five judges each at their own area and an empty chair across from each of them. Each of us contestants were instructed walk in order and each stand with our back to the judge we were near. When the judges’ officials instructed to begin, we turned around, sat down, and started our interview with that particular judge. When we had only a minute left, we were told to finish up and then when the time was up we were told “time.” This continued with each judge until we were all done. It went really quickly but then again, I really enjoyed it. I liked getting to know more about the judges and share about my family, my life and my passion for choice and innovation in public education.

After the interviews were finished we went back to the Wellstone Theater for lunch and then rehearsals. This was ‘go time’ meaning we had to bring all of items we needed for the pageant. That meant all luggage, dress bags, etc., because we would be getting ready at the Wellstone Theater. Anyway, the lunch was great. My husband and I were able to set with other contestants and their husbands and talk. We really a great opportunity to get to know them as a couple and share more about us. Around 12:30pm we started rehearsals again.

This bigger rehearsal was fun. We were all getting more comfortable with one another and friendships were blooming. We had time both on-stage and off-stage talking, sharing laughs and learning even more about one another. A portion of this rehearsal also included our husbands which provided lots of entertainment for us. The pageant host, co-host, and coordinators were so much fun. They really made the rehearsals a blast. Who knew rehearsals could be so fun? The fun had to end by 4pm so we could go get

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Photo by                           Paula Preston Photography

ready for the night’s competition.

 

After rehearsal concluded we all went to the pageant dressing rooms to get ready.  When we arrived at our dressing rooms we found the sweetest gift bags that included snacks and water which I put to use in between my time on stage. After getting hair and make-up done, all dressed and ready it was time. We headed out for some photos before lining up on stage for introductions.

At 6 pm the pageant started. The host and co-host set the

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Photo by                           Paula Preston Photography

stage for a fun night and then we hit the stage. Each contestant gave their introduction and then we went right into the on-stage interviews. We were each given a moment to share about our platform followed by a response to a question specific to our platform. I felt that was the most nerve-wracking part. Not knowing what the question would be and how to answer it within the allotted time. After the interview, we had to rush back to the pageant dressing room to change. While we were getting into our fitness wear the pre-teen, teen & miss contestants were onstage for the fun fashion wear competition. Back to the stage we all went in our

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Photo by                           Paula Preston Photography

fitness wear which honestly with me being 33 weeks pregnant was laughable. My baby bump was so big my fitness wear couldn’t even cover it. Regardless I walked the stage with pride workin’ it with my baby belly. (we all wore white tennis shoes which were so comfortable who wouldn’t rock it?!?) Despite the swollen ankles, massive belly and the water retention I felt pretty. After the fitness wear we had a short intermission while we got into our evening gowns and lined up to hit the stage once again. This was particularly fun because this time we were accompanied by our husbands. I loved walking the stage in an evening gown on the arm of my beloved husband. The way he

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Photo by                           Paula Preston Photography

looked at me and the little smirks exchanged were memorable. After the evening gown competition, the curtains closed and the husbands took the spotlight for some special interviews. It was such a cool experience to be back stage listening to our husbands respond to questions and interact on stage. We all giggled and even cried happy tears at the various responses. They were all so sweet. After the husband interviews, we were all lined up when the curtains re-opened and it was

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Photo by                                                 Paula Preston Photography

time for the coronation of the winners for Pre-Teen, Teen, Miss and Mrs. The current title holders were given an opportunity to give a farewell speech of sorts. It was fun to hear their insight on their previous year’s endeavors. They announced the 2ndrunner up, first runner up and then the winner for each crown. Afterwards the winners were crowned and the pageant concluded.

 

After Pageant Awards Reception

Following the pageant, we attended the After Pageant Awards Reception which was pretty neat. It included not only the contests and their spouses but also family and friends. It was the first appearance for the new Pre-Teen, Teen, Miss and Mrs. Minnesota ACS_0032International. They were each introduced and each one spoke very eloquently about their plans for the next year. They were all so excited. The director and other pageant staff spoke about the pageant and gave out special awards. The special awards were:  Amity Award, Community Service Award, Directors Award, Peoples’ ACS_0033Choice Award, Pitch Book Award, Photogenic Award, Team Spirit Award, and Volunteer Service Award. There was also a very special award for one of the husbands, Best Supporting Husband Award. I was happily surprised to receive the Directors Award, Community Spirit Award, and Pitch Book Award. On the other hand, I was not surprised when they announced my husband as the recipient of the Best Supporting Husband Award. He is so sweet and was there for me every minute. He even went so far as to rub my legs with lotion because they were so swollen due to the pregnancy.

As the recipients of special awards were announced photos were taken and we were able to celebrate everyone’s’ accomplishments. We were also able visit with our fellow contestants who were now our friends as well as their families and friends. It was so neat to get to meet their children, parents, etc. We enjoyed cake, shared stories, hugs and took photos. It was a great way to conclude the pageant weekend and kick-start the reign of the newly crowned.

My Thoughts

As we left the Wellstone Center and started the drive home my husband and I ACS_0031shared our thoughts on the weekend and the entire pageant competition. We were both so happy that I did it. It was a wonderful experience! I was nervous about getting sponsorship but the local community responded with such overwhelming support both financially and with such kind words. (I even brought one of the notes I received from a sponsor with me to the pageant.)  Having never been in a true pageant before I didn’t know what to expect but I can say with certainty that the Mrs. Minnesota International Pageant was awesome and exceeded any of my expectations. The director was so sweet and supportive. The staff were all so kind and helpful. I never felt stupid asking questions. The contestants were not only kind they were above and beyond supportive of one another. I recall telling my husband, “I don’t envy the judges. What an incredibly hard decision to make because they are all such deserving women.” I truly never expected to gain such great friendships. These women were all so amazing, talented, strong, compassionate and hard working. I am so very proud to be a part of the pageant sisterhood.

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I had such a fun time. It was truly an incredible experience and I am so glad I did it even being so pregnant. Someday my daughter Josephine will have a great story about her first experience with a pageant with Mommy. And her newborn photos with the crown are so special.

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Photos by HMD Photography 

I am honored to be Mrs. Sibley County 2018 and am cheering for Minnesota 2018, Valentina Kostenko as she prepares for the upcoming Mrs. International Pageant which takes place July 20th-21stin Charleston, West Virginia.

If you are someone who loves to give back, do community service, volunteer, you should definitely think about this pageant. If you have a charity you are passionate about and would like a platform to help spread the word about it this is the pageant will give you that. If you have ever given pageants a thought you should definitely give this one a try. Maybe you are looking for a new and exciting experience, you wanna try something you have never tried before, then try this! The Mrs. Minnesota International Pageant will not disappoint. If you are interested and would like an application for the 2019 local competition call Pageants Unlimited at (952) 432-6758.

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Star Wars BB8 Cake

IMG_1084I have all of my birthday party supplies organized in large zip bags stored in 2 large totes in a closet. This works great to reuse items, mix n’ match crepe paper, balloons and other small items to save money. I have some favorites, as do the kids (I cannot tell you how many Thomas the Train or John Deere parties we’ve had). So when my 5 year old decided to go with a Star Wars theme for his 6th birthday I was elated. I hadn’t used my Star Wars party supplies in 10 years!! So I happily pulled out all of the saved items and began planning. The party we had 10 years ago was a much bigger party which included a fun menu (Jedi Juice, Leia Lemonade, Yoda Soda, Hoth Dogs, Jabba Jello, Light Saber Pretzel Sticks, Wookie Cookies, Naboo Nuggets), Star Wars games (Jedi Training, pool noodle light sabers), a Darth Vader Piñata and an official Jedi Certificate. This time around was a bit more low key. (We have a big party when they turn 5 with lots of friends etc. and then smaller birthday celebrations with 1 or 2 friends for all other parties as we feel they enjoy it a bit more with less kids and commotion.) Anyway…….

As I was planning I checked with the birthday boy about what he wanted for the menu and what kind of cake he wanted. After much debate about the menu he took no time to decide he wanted a BB8 cake. So I assumed I could just do 2 round cakes (one small and one larger) to look like a BB8 laid down and we were good to go. The birthday boy had other ideas. He explained while that while that would be cool a 3D BB8 cake would be “Even more aaawwwesome!” He then quickly drew up some step by step instructions as to how I could make such a cake.IMG_1083

I explained how I was nervous about it’s structure being sound but he assured me that I could handle it. After a few laughs I decided my 5 year old’s faith in my baking ability was enough to give it a go.

IMG_1013I started out with my Betty Crocker Bake’n Cake Pan. It seemed to be about the same size as the BB8  plush he had. I was stuck on how to make BB8’s head though. While shopping at my favorite dollar store The Dollar Tree I found these small class bowls that were not only perfect for ingredients while baking they were exactly the size I needed to make BB8’s head! And a set of 2 for $1?? -heck yeah!

It took 1 1/2 cake mixes to make half of BB8’s body and his head and then another 1 1/2 cake mixes to make the second half of BB8’s body. All in all the baking was very simple. I hadIMG_1012 to bake 2 rounded cakes, 2 insert pans and then 2 of the small
class bowls. I placed the small glass bowls on a tray incase they overflowed. I followed the instructions from the bake’n fill set and all of the pieces turned out great.

After baking I let them all cool. Once I was able to frost the crumb layer I put the insert cake piece into the rounded pice and then wrapped them in clear wrap before putting them in the fridge to set.

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Left: Insert Cake Right: Round Cake

The next day I was ready to build the cake and do the final later of frosting & decorating. IMG_1071

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1072I started by cutting off a small portion of the top of one of the rounded pans so when inverted it would sit without wanting to roll. I wanted to be sure BB8 wasn’t going to roll away ;).

Then I inverted that base piece, frosted the flat portion to ‘glue’ the two base pieces together. After a nice layer of frosting I placed the IMG_1073second base on top making a nice round cake ball. (This is what I did 10 years ago when my first born asked for a Death Star cake).

I then frosted to fill in the gaps around the ball.

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After trying to get the sides as smooth as I could I was ready to prep for the pipping. I used the lid of a tub of frosting to make 4 initial circles that would later be pipped.

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I decided it would be easier to do the pipping on the base before putting BB8’s head on so I got started right away. I used chocolate frosting with black Wilton coloring to make the black (starting with chocolate saves on the amount of coloring to make black). I used vanilla frosting with a touch of the black Wilton coloring for the gray and then vanilla with some orange Wilton coloring to make the orange color.  I used the plush BB8 as a guide and got started. You can see a round wooden piece under the cake base. This is actually a Lazy Susan I got from Ikea which works great for spinning cakes as I decorate.

IMG_0444As you can see I did all the pipping on the base including writing ‘Happy Birthday’ on the base BEFORE putting the head on. Crazy? Possibly, but it worked for me.

SO then I took a couple plastic straws and cut them to place into the base for additional support. In the past I have used disposable chopsticks from a restaurant but I didn’t have any on hand so I decided to go rouge ;).

I gently placed the head on BB8 which was a messy task butIMG_0446 a simple hand-washing remedied the situation.

IMG_1076Finally I added the details to the BB8’s head. I finished with 2 silver candles. I cut the base of one of those candles to make it look more authentic to BB8’s antennas.

 

Boom, DONE!

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IMG_0448My favorite was when he got home from school and was able to see the finished product. He was pretty excited with how it turned out. I guess mama can follow directions. 😉

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As you can see it’s a lot of cake but it was yummy and he was one happy birthday boy.

 

Happy Baking Friends,

May the force be with you!

~M

 

 

When your soldier is away…

This past year was a challenging one for our family a because my husband was away for a few months. I say ‘few’ because it was less than a year but even as I say it I quickly remember how hard those ‘few’ months were. As a mom of 7 (with #8 in the oven) solo parenting was challenging at best. I cried, I gave myself some slack and sometimes I thought I couldn’t do it but somehow we all made it through because…well…we have to.

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Now that I am on the other side and my husband and I have had the opportunity to talk about what helped get us through the challenges I have decided it might be helpful to share some insight with others.

By no means is it easy to see your soldier leave but we are proud of him and really enjoy being reunited when Daddy comes home. Our children have learned that Daddy’s military service requires sacrifices from all of us. Here are some tips that really helped us to make the sacrifices a bit more bearable.

1.Videos

Depending upon operational security this may or may not work for everyone but for us it   did and was very successful. My husband would record a short video and send it to me to share with the kids. This is a great way to tell the kids a quick, “Hello, Daddy loves you.” It is also a great opportunity to remind the kids that they too are serving in their own way and that he’s proud of them for working hard at home. He sent videos whenever he could. The great part of technology is the kids could watch them over and over again whenever THEY needed to. When one of the little ones was having a sad day and just wanted daddy they could watch the video until they felt better.  Sometimes he would even include special messages for any of the kids who had anything special that day. I also have to admit this started as videos for the kids but soon included videos just for me which served as great encouragement on the hard days.

2.Daddy Dolls

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Daddy Dolls inc. has hug-a-hero dolls and they were an amazing tool for our. These are custom made dolls with a photo of their soldier so they can hug and snuggle them. They are not too expensive ($32.95) and worth every penny. Although we didn’t opt for the recorded message you can add a recording device for $7.95 to record a special message for the child. For my little ones they were happy to carry around Daddy and snuggle with him anytime they wanted to.

 

3.Countdown Chain

We all know that the military is unpredictable but we can at least estimate how long our soldier may be away. Whether it’s a daily, weekly or monthly countdown it is helpful to tear that piece off. I always felt like I accomplished something.

4.Letters

The kids colored lots of pictures, made many drawings and wrote letters to Daddy. I would collect them in a file and mail them in clumps. The mail isn’t fast but it’s something tangible for the kids to make for him and something for him to hold.

5.Communication

When we did have an opportunity to talk to Daddy it was a struggle. For some kids talking to Daddy made them miss him more for others it was helpful. Sometimes we had a hard day on our end and sometimes Daddy had just endured a very challenging day on his end. Trying to talk to one another without pushing our negative feelings from the day onto the person on the other end of the phone is very hard.

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Another extremely difficult part of communication was choice of words. Any time my husband would down-play his role as a soldier or his being away would instantly let the wind out of my sails. For him he was trying to be humble about his service, what he was doing, and did not want to burden me with his stories and stresses during his time away. For me it sort of under minded or made light of the incredible sacrifices the children and I were enduring while he away. Being able to discuss this while he was away improved our communication and helped us during the rest of his time there.

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At the end of the day it was our faith that got us through it. We prayed for each other, weprayed together. Once in awhile we were able to FaceTime during a meal so we could do a quasi family meal. Somehow doing those regular daily things as a family made it seem like Daddy wasn’t so far away.

What helps your family get through challenging times? If you are a military family how do you cope with deployments? What tips work well for your family?

 

More Crazy DIY Cardboard Costumes

Last June I set out to make some fairly large cabbage costumes but didn’t want to involveScreen Shot 2017-11-04 at 5.01.36 PM chicken wire or other things like that. When it comes to costume making (& most other things) I try to use what I’ve got and well, the Menne’s have plenty of purple cardboard boxes (thanks to my obsession with jet.com). I have already done Lego costumes with cardboard boxes so how card can it be right?

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 5.02.25 PMAnyway, I searched the internet doing my homework to see if it was possible to take a rectangular box and turn it into a ball and wouldn’t ya know it’s totally possible and even easy! In fact making these cabbage costumes inspired two of our family halloween costumes BB8 and the head of R2D2. (more info on how I did that below the how to section).

 

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How to:

Supplies: Cardboard boxes, box cutter, duct tape (FYI the real stuff holds better trust me), marker, tape measure.

Optional supplies: Papier-mâché mix (flour, water, glue), newspaper, spray paint.

1. Find some boxes. I honestly break down boxes flat and store them for rainy day play or random costumes.

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2. Open the boxes flat and determine the size of pieces you’ll need. Be sure you cut the pieces so the corrugated flutes are going left to right. This is so you can get the pieces to bend to create the round ball shape.
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Think of a beach ball. The pieces need to be long enough to fit the person you are making it for and need to be able to be rounded to connect. Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 4.39.20 PM

3. Draw the shape the size you like. I have used pencils, markers and sharpies and tend to like the regular Crayola type markers because those marks are easier to cover up later on.

4. Cut your first strip carefully. (I like to put more cardboard under the piece I’m cutting on when cutting in the house. Otherwise I’d advice cutting on the lawn to avoid scratches on your flooring.)

5. Use that strip as a template to trace and cut more strips. The number of strips you’ll need depends on the size and look you are going for. More strips do make it a bit bigger but more thin strips make a much rounder ball shape. (I learned that the hard way.) I have used anywhere from 8-12 strips on various projects.

6. Roll the strips to make a curve. This is where the corrugated flutes come into play. I tend to use the edge of a countertop to help save my hands some of the work. Making the shapes slightly rounded helps when taping the pieces together.

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7. Now for the fun part. Tape 2 strips together. The side with the smaller flat end will be your ‘head’ end and the other end with the larger flat end will be the ‘leg’ end.

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This was my first ball and in retrospect made the strips far too wide.

8. Continue to add strips on one at a time using the duct tape to connect. If you feel the need you can tape from both the inside and outside. It truly depends on how sturdy you wish for the ball to be.

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I used packaging tape for my first ball and can assure you duct tape is superior.

9. Finally decide where to put them and cut arm holes. (even if you don’t think you need them it’s a good idea for safety incase the person inside falls over they can catch themselves a bit).

10. Adjust the head hole and the leg holes. I like to use a stake knife to cut these because it seems to cut through tape and cardboard a bit better than the box cutters. I also tape the edges of the head and leg holes to add comfort for the wearer.

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My first two costumes were from a large box from our new wash machine

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11. Use newspaper or whatever paper to Papier-mâché the exterior of the ball. I use the packaging paper from my Jet.com purchases…and no I get no perks for promoting them I just love to shop purple)

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Drying the layer of papier-mâché

12. Paint it. I like to spray paint because it’s quick.

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This one has ‘leaves’ to look like a cabbage.

13. Make it your own! You can go nuts adding whatever detail you want.

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My first go at this I made two of the cabbage costumes.

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The smiling cabbage is my second cardboard ball costume.

Star Wars Cardboard Costumes

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R2D2 & BB8

BB8

I used the same directions as shown above to make the body of BB8. I then made a smaller ball shape and cut it to the right size for BB8’s head. I then inverted the portion I had cut off and placed it inside the ‘head’ and then hot-glued a bike helmet into. I also hot glued straws wrapped in duct tape for the antenna. I hand painted the details on BB8 which got old real fast. 😦

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BB8’s head.

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Spray painted with matte white and then penciled in the details before painting.

R2D2

I started with a 14″ Sono tube from Menard’s but you can find those types of concrete tubes at your local hardware store. I cut it to the right size for my son, cut a couple arm holes and then spray painted it. I used blue duct tape, gray duct tape and a couple sharpie’s to add all of the detail.

For the head I used a similar process as I did for the BB8 head but used more strips to create the looks of R2’s head. I ran out of hot glue so I actually used duct tape to tape the bike helmet in the R2 head.  I then found metallic spray paint at my local hardware store Bender’s True Value. Once again I used blue duct tape for details and cut a few holes to look the part and also serve as a safety feature for him to look out when he wanted to pull his head in.  Finally I got some pieces of foam from Menard’s and cut them to look like R2D2’s legs and then duct taped the heck out of them. Finally I added straws to look like the wires. The boys both loved their costumes.

 

I seem to enjoy the challenge DIY costumes and hope you can have fun with the process too.

Happy costume making friends!

Yummy Fresh Bread (step-by-step)

I love to bake and with a big family we eat a lot of bread. I started making our bread a number of years ago and have tried a few recipes and methods and have settled on this one. For me baking loaves of bread is super cheap, easy and very enjoyable. I promise it’s easier than you think. Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh baked bread?!?!? This just might be your gateway to homemade pizza & cinnamon rolls. 😉

If you are a regular reader you know I am an Aldi shopper. They sell yeast packets which make this super easy. I buy my bread flour in bulk at Sam’s club but it’s also sold at Walmart in large bags. (I have found the cheapest price is at Sam’s though) Aldi also carries sugar, salt and shortening. You can find bread pans at your local thrift store or buy them new at your favorite store. I find the thrift stores have nicer pans and a good selection of size. If you are really ambitious you can order larger bread pans & bread bags online. I have 4 larger pans myself but don’t order bags anymore. (They were great, I’m just too cheap)

Traditional White Bread

What you need:

Bread Flour (If you are curious as to why bread flour here you go: Baking 101)

White Sugar

Salt

Lard/Crisco/Shortening (you may substitute with butter or vegetable oil)

Water

#2 9×5 pans

cooking spray

clear wrap or a light cloth

thermometer

Large bowl

Ingredients

I like to start by measuring out all of my ingredients. I use small custard cups and a couple pyrex liquid measuring cups to hold the ingredients. I also like to line them up in order of use. 

  • 2 packets of active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 Cups warm water (110 degrees F )
  • 3 Tablespoons of white sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons shortening melted
  • 6 1/2 Cups of Bread Flour

Step-by-Step Directions

1. Measure out your ingredients

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2. Spray the inside of the large mixing bowl

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3. Attach a dough hook to your stand mixer (you can use a wooden spoon but I assure you the stand mixer will make this much easier)

4. Empty the 2 packets of yeast into a stand mixing bowl (or large mixing bowl)

5. Pour in the sugar

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6. Pour in the warm water.

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7. Start the mixer on ‘stir’ or the lowest setting. Let it mix/stir until the yeast and sugar dissolve.

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8. Add the shortening and salt

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9. Add the flour 2 cups at a time until it reaches a ‘dough’ consistency. 

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10. It takes roughly 6 minutes to kneed in the stand mixer.

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11. Turn it out onto a floured surface. (I use a large cutting board (18×20 3/4″) I found at Ikea). 

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12. Kneed it by hand until smooth and elastic. (I tend to do about 4 turns and it’s ready; however, if you are not using a stand mixer you will need to kneed it by hand for about 8 minutes or so)

*You want to be able to push on it with a finger and it bounces back rather than leaving an indent.

 

13. Make the dough into a ball and place it in the greased bowl.

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14. Cover with clear wrap or a light towel. Let it sit for an hour. It will double in size. 

15. Spray your bread pans with cooking spray (be thorough so the bread doesn’t get stuck)

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16. Punch down the dough.

17. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.

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18. Cut the dough in half and place one piece in each of the bread pans. 

 

*You can roll it up, tuck it under or just drop it in. The appearance is up to you. I used to make 2 batches (1 white and 1 wheat) and then make a swirled loaf but my kids prefer the plain white bread.

19. Cover the loaves with loosely clear wrap or with a light cloth (you want it to have the space to rise so don’t let the clear wrap get too tight)

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20. Let the loaves rise for 45 minutes

21. Move your oven racks down to allow for room for the bread to rise and then preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

22. Remove the clear wrap or light cloth and place in the oven. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes

23. Remove from the oven and place them on their sides. As they cool remove the bread from the pan and then place on the other side to cool. (This is so it doesn’t get too moist on the sides)

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24. Slice and enjoy!

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This may seem like a long process based on how I laid it out here but I assure you that it gets faster and easier each and every time you make it. I started out taking my time and needing to read everything step by step but now I don’t need a recipe anymore and it goes so fast. Give it a whirl!

Adventures with Daddy!

 

I know, I know…we all have the best Daddy’s. But really, my children have been blessed with THE Best-est Daddy that ever was. He is the Daddy that say, “I’m NOT babysitting, it’s my own kids!” He’s a cuddler, he reads stories and he loves to put them to bed and snuggle. He has a busy schedule being a student at Bethel University (getting another Master’s degree), the mayor our community, and weekend warrior (soldier in the MN Army National Guard) and working a full-time job. Despite his demanding schedule providing for our family he still makes the time to be there for the kids and today was no exception. He works downtown Minneapolis so he leaves for work before the kids are awake and gets home in time for a late dinner. The kids don’t understand what a commute means and certainly don’t understand rush hour traffic being our town is so small there aren’t even stoplights. So this morning the kids awoke to something fun and very sweet to connect with Daddy today.

Two of the boys ‘friends’ (Donatello the Ninja Turtle & Scott the dog) went to work with Daddy this morning! Mom got texts all morning so the kids could follow along. Every time my phone made a ‘Tweet’ sound they ran to see what Donatello & Scott were up to! It was a big hit.

 

iTri

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I tri. Yup, I am a triathlete although I really don’t feel like an athlete most days. I sometimes feel as exhausted as an athlete at the end of the day but certainly don’t fancy myself an Athlete with a capital “A.” As I have mentioned before I try to stay active and do races here and there but by no means do I have the body of an athlete. I race with my mom-bod just fine. 😉

12 years ago while living in Colorado I worked with a super amazing woman who competed in Ironman Triathlons and I was inspired by her to give one a try. No not an Ironman! Not even a full olympic length triathlon. My goal was to complete a sprint triathlon so I had to train. I started running (pushing my jogging stroller with my princess) in the mornings. I had to go early enough as to not get hit by all of the morning lawn sprinklers & there were lots of hills but I did it. I biked pulling a trailer but didn’t train much for the swim until later. After moving to Minnesota in June of 2006 I started to train for open water swim in a nearby lake. I felt ready but was still pretty nervous so convinced my husband and brother-in-law to join me and form a team to compete in a sprint tri.  Team Menne successfully completed the North Mankato Triathlon!  I swam, my brother in law biked and my husband ran. I felt really good after my swim….really good..so much so that I decided I could do the whole thing on my own. A couple of weeks later I completed in my first solo triathlon, the Elysian Rookie’s Triathlon. It was a bit different from the other one but I liked it! I was hooked!

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Since my first tri in 2006 I have tried to complete 4-5 tri’s a season and run a few 5k’s in between. Living in Minnesota there are plenty of lakes for swimming and I have been lucky enough to live in an area where there are lots of tri’s to pick from. I have a few a have done each year and then a few I have tried for something different.

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Over the years I have learned a few things and gotten into my own way of racing. Here is the quick and dirty.

  • First and foremost it’s fun for me. As long as it remains fun I will continue to do them.
  • It’s challenging but doable. My only goal is to finish although sometimes I get pretty competitive and push myself to be stronger. I don’t have the time or resources to train like the elites and I’m ok with that.
  • 10 years later I am still a rookie. Yup, a rookie. Just because I have done lots of sprint tri’s doesn’t mean I am good them. I’ve never won 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in my category although I have gotten close a few times. Again, I am totally okay with it. I’m not a serious racer.
  • It’s what you make of it. I have a hybrid type of bike so it’s not a mountain bike but it’s not a road bike…I guess it’s in between. I don’t have bike shoes and I don’t wear a wet suit. I’m pretty old school I guess. 😉 Again, I am ok with not having the awesome equipment. I just leave that to the pros.
  • Pre-race jitters never go away. Some of these races I do each year so I already know what to expect and am familiar with the race route yet still get the jitters. It’s a bit frustrating because I KNOW I have no reason to be nervous but my body has other ideas. It is what it is. :/
  • There are always other rookies and newbies. I really enjoy meeting other racers and love that the sport is so inviting of new people. First timers get so much great advice and support of more experienced racers. (Just don’t touch or knock over their expensive bikes).
  • It’s a family affair. Our kids do kids tri’s and enjoy them. Our oldest just competed with my husband and I as a relay team. It was his first adult race and he did well. My hope is that my racing instills an active lifestyle in our children.
  • Register Early! The cost varies from race to race and gets more expensive as the date gets closer so I have learned to plan out what races I can do and get registered early. It not only ensures you have a spot to race it also keeps the cost down.

Here’s some feedback on some of my favorite races:

North Mankato Tri (North Mankato, MN) 1/4 Mile Swim/2 Mile Bike/3 Mile Run | This is a well run race. The swim is in Hiniker Pond making it less scary for those who are uneasy about an open water swim. It’s a wave start but not too bad. The bike is very challenging with a few big hills but never fear, you get to come back down those hills. The run is nice and flat with plenty of water stops. The swag bag is usually pretty good too. Over the years this race has grown and has attracted more serious competition but still has some rookie participants. Overall a great race and well run.

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Elysian Rookie Tri (Elysian) .4 Mile Swim/8 Mile Bike/4 Mile Run | Who doesn’t love a race with “Rookie” in the name?? This is a lovely short sprint tri. This race is also a wave start but has plenty of space on the beach to spread out. The swim is a bit longer than others but the bike is short with ‘rolling’ hills. The run although longer than the typical 5k is flat on the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail. It’s a very organized local race. I highly recommend this race to anyone who has EVER thought of completing a tri. As a rookie tri they allow life jackets, snorkel or whatever (as long as it does propel you) which makes it less daunting for first timers. Although there are some serious racers who participate in this event it is really fun and full of supportive triathletes.

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River City Days Tri (Chaska, MN) .3 Mile Swim/ 16 Mile Bike/ 3 Mile Run | This is my favorite race but hasn’t happened two years in a row. (They took a year off for construction at the venue and then this year had to cancel due to low registration-big bummer). I love this race because it’s challenging but such an amazing course! The swim is at Fireman’s Park and has a time-trial start. The line may seem long with that type of start but gosh the rest of the race route is far more enjoyable with everyone more spread out. The bike is challenging being a longer one with some hills but it’s a beautiful route through the countryside. Be warned the bike route does go over train tracks! There is always a pile of water bottles in that area and I myself lost my speedometer on those darn things. Anyway, the run starts uphill but you get to run back down that hill flying right to the finish line. They have great music, and emcee AND you get breakfast after the race! Ahh-mazing!! This race entices many hard-core triathletes and has filled up fast.

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Lakefront Days Tri (Prior Lake, MN) 1/4 Mile Swim/ 14 Mile Bike/ 3.3 Mile Run | This race is ultra organized with tons of volunteers to ensure it goes smoothly. It’s not super easy to get in and out because it’s a Clearly Lake Regional Park but it is a nice venue for the event. They have an emcee, great music, delicious post race meal and race professionals on hand to assist with any bike issues you might have. The race begins with time-trial start and has a great swim course. The bike is out on an open course so pay attention to traffic. The run is mostly on the parks paved trail and ends with a nice open area for the crowd to cheer you through to the finish line. The volunteers make sure you get enough water at the stops and every finisher receives a medal. The race was cancelled last year and I hope it starts up again next year.

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Lake Waconia Tri (Waconia, MN) 1/2 Mile Swim/20 Mile Bike /4 Mile Run | This is a very challenging race because the 1/2 mille swim can be a bit much on a windy day. A number of swimmers need to be rescued. The bike seems long but is a beautiful route around the lake. The run is out and back on city streets with lots of people cheering you on. This is a big race with LOTS of competitive racers but still fun.

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Green Lake Tri (Spicer, MN) Sprint Course: 1/4 mile swim /13.4 mile bike/3 mile run
Olympic Course: 3/4 mile swim/21.3 mile bike/6 mile run | This race is filled with competitive racers and offers both a sprint course and an olympic length course. It’s a very fun event and the route is beautiful! Green Lake is a larger lake so the swim can be a bit scary especially when there are whitecaps. The bike route goes around the lake and the run is on a nice wide road for plenty of space for runners. This is a big race and so much fun. They do a great job of making this race a weekend full of fun. It’s worth making it a full trip staying the whole weekend in Spicer.

If completing a tri is something you have always wanted to do I encourage you to try one. You can do it! It’s not about wining, it’s about crossing the finish line. I have done them pregnant, post baby and everything in between. It CAN be done. Be active and have fun!

With God all things are Possible. ~Matthew 19:26