October 31, 2015

Apple picking and dog walking.

I quickly learned that when you live in Minnesota, you visit an apple orchard at least once during the fall apple season. Apple season begins around mid August and ends toward the end of October. Apple varieties available for picking vary over the three month period of time - from crabapples in late August to Red Baron, McIntosh, Haralson, Honeycrisp and Honeygold in early September and Spartan, Empire and Connellred in late September to early October. Who knew there were so many kinds of apples?

Matt and I decided to check out Minnesota Harvest, which is located in Jordan, Minnesota, a town just a few miles south of Chaska. 

Minnesota Harvest not only has apples, but during their peek season in October, they also sell pumpkins (which they have in abundance). After purchasing an 11 pound "picking bag," Matt and I boarded a wagon that took us to the apple orchard. Each tree was marked with a ribbon that indicated its varietal. 

Matt and I decided to go for the yellow ribbon trees, which contained Connellred, and the blue ribbon trees, which contained regent.

We made sure to taste the varieties before choosing our favorite...

What does 20 pounds look like? Matt had to hold the bag with two hands...and we made sure to pile a few extra apples on top (and in our pockets).

Our first apple picking experience was delightful and will most likely become a fall tradition...

We had a dog waiting in the car while we were picking apples, so after we were done picking, we headed for Lake Minnewaska Regional Park for a hike walk. The trail started paved, but eventually turned into a dirt trail that ran adjacent to the lake. 

Rio was very happy to be out of the car and outside, and looked beautiful running on the trail chasing after birds, squirrels, leaves and just about anything else that moved...

After about three miles of walking and a somewhat tired dog, we headed back to the car and drove home, snacking on an apple during the ride.

October was a beautiful month this year in Minnesota, and it was great having a couple buddies along to share in a few adventures. 

Happy Halloween!

October 12, 2015

New housemates.

The first week of October brought some major changes to the Matt + Karen + Rio + Lucky clan. On October 3 Matt + Rio arrived in Chaska, accompanied by Matt’s dad, Ron. Matt + Rio left Anchorage one week before, on September 26, after calling Alaska home for more than nine years. Driving from Anchorage to Haines, Matt + Rio then hopped on the Alaska Marine Highway System destined for Prince Rupert, British Colombia, Canada. After a day and a half on the water, Matt + Rio landed in Prince Rupert and drove to Calgary, Alberta, where Ron joined them for the rest of the drive. Three days later the three of them arrived safely in Chaska.

Rio...being camera shy...

Lucky loves watching all the action from high places...

Matt is also warming up to the idea of sharing space with a cat…and more specifically, a black cat

This past weekend called for unseasonably warm weather in central Minnesota, so Matt and I took full advantage of the temperatures. We rode the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail, which follows an old railroad route from Hopkins through Chanhassen. We added 16 and 8 miles on each end of the route for about a 40 mile bike ride.

Our first pit stop was in Hopkins at The Depot Coffee House, a popular stop along the River Bluffs Trail. This coffee shop is housed in a renovated train depot and is student-run; often offering live music. We had a few snacks and then headed on our way again.

Our next stop was in Excelsior at the Excelsior Brewing Company. One of my favorite breweries in the area, I was excited to share the place with Matt. Excelsior Brewing Company was celebrating Oktoberfest, or unique to Excelsior, Docktoberfest, so I enjoyed a seasonal brew while Matt sipped on a flagship favorite.

We then hopped back on our bikes for the last 11 miles of the ride. We had a great time enjoying what is likely the last day of “summer” in Minnesota…and, I truly enjoyed having my favorite cycling companion with me for the ride.


September 16, 2015


Labor Day weekend brought a new addition to the Matt+Karen+Rio clan. Lucky became the newest member of the family. 

Leah took Lucky initially after a friend realized she could not keep Lucky due to allergies. Knowing that I wanted a cat to keep me company until Matt moved to Minnesota (and that Matt and I had always talked about getting a cat), Leah willingly cared for Lucky for about two weeks before I could pick her up in Iowa City Labor Day weekend. 

Lucky was very calm during her move from Iowa City to Chaska, and since moving, has enjoyed exploring the many hiding spots...

and high perches of the townhouse.

Lucky is a great companion, and I can not wait for her to meet Matt and Rio (hoping the dog + cat introduction goes well!).

Happy whisker Wednesday!

August 09, 2015

Birthday weekend!

Leah and I celebrated turning 31 last month...together. Having been apart for our birthdays the past two years, Leah decided to drive up to Chaska so we could spend a few days together. I took two days off from work and we had a great time.

After work on Wednesday and after Leah arrived in Chaska, we headed to Excelsior. I wanted Leah to see Lake Minnetonka and Excelsior. It is one town that I have really enjoyed visiting since moving to Chaska. Our first stop in Excelsior was at the Excelsior Brewing Company. This was my first time at the brewery. We each decided to order their Flagship Flight...

We then ate dinner at Maynard's on the Lake. Maynard's has a great patio for enjoying the long, hot July days of summer! 

On Thursday, our actual birthday, my mom and dad came up to spend the day with us. They surprised us with our long time favorite type of cake (besides the cheesecake my mom used to make EACH of us!)...a Dairy Queen ice cream cake!

After we had a slice of cake, we went on a bike ride around Chaska. We then got ready for a Twins game. They played the Tigers. 


Such a lovey stadium...

The All-Star game was just a few days away and Brian Dozier was very close in being voted in to participate. They handed out pins to encourage the audience to "Vote Dozier."  Eventually, he did indeed make the All Star team!

My parents left Friday morning. Leah and I had purchased tickets for the Basillica Block Party, an annual music festival in downtown Minneapolis, in early April, so we had been looking forward to the weekend for a long time. 

Stacey, one of my friends from college who I've reconnected with since we both live near the cities, joined us for the festival.  

Mat Kearney!!


On Saturday morning the three of us enjoyed a delicious brunch at Victor's 1959 Cafe. It is a local favorite that I have been wanting to try. The morning was beautiful, so it was nice sitting outside on the patio. 

Leah left after brunch so she could get back home before flying out to South Carolina. 

It was so fun having Leah in town for the weekend to celebrate our birthday!! 

Cheers to 31!

July 02, 2015

MS Bike Ride.

The MS Bike Ride is something that Leah and I participated in for a number of years while living in Alaska. We met a dear friend in Anchorage who has multiple sclerosis and it was always an honor to do something we enjoy so much (riding bike) to support finding a cure for something she battles and lives with every single day. During those rides in Alaska, we met two Ohio State Buckeye fans, David and Koreen, who became friends. David and Koreen have a goal to ride the MS Bike Ride in every state and dedicate each summer to riding for a cure. They have since moved to Houston, TX and announced earlier this spring that they would be riding Iowa this summer. After each ride David gets a tattoo on his calf that symbolizes the state for which they rode the MS ride. Now that Leah and I are both in Iowa, we told David and Koreen that we would ride with them in Iowa...and bring our parents. We also told David that due to our dedication and loyalty to the greatest team in Iowa, if we all rode the ride, he had to get Herkey on his calf. He obliged and we rode...what a good sport!

The day was beautiful for riding bike...

The four of us rode for Laurie Siemens and Steph Politte, two friends who have MS. 

The ride started at the fire station in Ankeny, Iowa...

...and followed the High Trestle Trail to Woodward...

The High Trestle bridge was a highlight of the ride. Although I have heard a lot about the trail...and bridge, I had never ridden on the trail until last weekend. 

The ride ended at the Firetrucker Brewery in Ankeny for a total of 50 miles. We all wore our Alaska jerseys...

...and had plenty of people asking us about Alaska. I loved being able to tell them that I had lived there for almost eight years but now live in Minnesota. It is so good to be back in the Midwest. 

After the ride we enjoyed a beer with David and Koreen before heading back home. It was great seeing the two of them again and I wish them well on the rest of their rides this summer. 

And, word on the street is that David and Koreen are planning to ride RAGBRAI in the summer of 2018. There might not be a better way to train than for a cause...


June 02, 2015

A visit from Matt!

Matt came to visit the second weekend in April. It had been almost a month since I had left Anchorage and seen him, so I was sure looking forward to his arrival. Busy almost every weekend since moving to Chaska and prior to his visit, I planned to take him around the cities and venture around some of the nearby parks and trails.

Saturday began with a trip to the Bloomington REI. We then headed for The Winchell Trail, which is part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. The Winchell Trail is a 5 mile loop hiking only trail on the west bank of the Mississippi River.

The trail is both paved and unpaved and for much of the route, is separated from a bike path that runs along side the hiking trail. The beautiful weather and clear view of the river provided a nice activity for the afternoon. 

Matt wanted to go into St. Paul, so we looked on Yelp for a good place to grab an afternoon snack. The Happy Gnome had some good reviews so we decided to check it out. 

We ordered a couple appetizers to fill our stomachs. A cheese plate...

...and some of the best tater tots we have ever eaten....I would highly recommend this gastropub to anyone looking for some good eats in St. Paul.

On Sunday, we stayed around Chaska and explored some of the trails near town. The Minnesota Valley State State Trail is part of the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area, which extends from Chaska to Belle Plaine.

We "hiked" a few miles down the trail before turning around and walking back to the car. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the trail and the vastness of land that surrounded the trail. I'm excited to check it out again when the trees and shrubs turn green.

While we were on our walk, our friend/dogsitter in Anchorage sent us a few pictures of Rio. 

She was being entertained by a moose outside their window.

Sunday evening we decided to eat dinner at The Prairie Tap House in Eden Prairie. It was another restaurant that had some good reviews on Yelp.

As we were about ready to leave, rain started pouring outside. It was difficult to see the street from the front door - and didn't provide for a friendly walk to the car. So, we decided to play some darts....

Matt dominated. Enough said.

I took work off on Monday so we could attend the home opener for the Minnesota Twins. We actually scheduled Matt's trip to Minnesota around this game because they were scheduled to play the Royals, his favorite team.

The day was just lovely.

Every person in attendance received a free hoodie (the sweatshirt I am wearing in the picture below).

After finding our seats...

we decided to walk around the ballpark and get some snacks. Matt found the largest Bloody Mary we have ever seen. 

To welcome Torii Hunter back to Minneapolis, Kevin Garnett threw out the first pitch...

We had a great day at the game even though the Twins got blown out by the Royals. Fortunately, as I write this blog, I can feel confident about their season now that they lead the Central Division (including the Royals).

It was so nice having Matt in Chaska and Minneapolis for the weekend. I can not wait for him to move later this summer.