Nice Work, If You Can Get It

My Grace, in her flapper costume. Photo by Patrick Timmons (Cookie McGee in the show).

Grace, in her flapper costume. Photo by Patrick Timmons (Cookie McGee in the show).

My daughter is in her very first high school musical, Nice Work, If You Can Get It. This past weekend was opening weekend. I went twice. It was a great show!

I didn’t realize that White Bear Lake’s Theater Department was well known for being so incredible! Several people (from other districts) have told me that was the case – recognition well deserved!

The casting, costumes, choreography, singing, live music, set, effects… all fantastic! The roles were perfectly cast!

Everyone involved worked so hard. The cast alone was practicing every day after school from about 3:30-anywhere from 9-10:30 at night. I can’t imagine all the hours the directors, crew, costume moms, music directors, set construction crew, etc. put in on top of that!

Here is a group shot, taken by Kathy Burnham.

Here is a group shot, taken by Kathy Burnham.

I went to both shows on Saturday, and heard several comments that are a huge congratulations to everyone involved! Here are some of the things I heard: “The costumes are fantastic!” “Where did they get those great costumes?” “How did they find so many kids who could dance?” “I can’t believe these are high school kids.” “They make it look so fun!” “Great singing!” “Wow, all the colors really pop off the stage!”

What impressed me about the show (on top of all that), was that even when things went less than perfect, the cast and crew continued on without a hitch.

Nice Work If You Can Get It is a prohibition era, boy meets girl comedy. There is a lot of singing and dancing with bootleggers, flappers, and a clueless pretty boy. It is a hilarious show, and SO MUCH FUN!! I am looking forward to seeing it one more time before it closes. I’d recommend you do the same.

Another fun shot of the cast taken by Kathy Burnham.

Another fun shot of the cast taken by Kathy Burnham.

There are still three shows left: Thursday, 11/19; Friday 11/20 and Saturday 11/21. All shows are at 7 PM. You can purchase tickets at the following link:


Side note:


This was probably my favorite of the headpieces I made. This one was for my daughters flapper costume.

While I was not as involved as I would have liked to have been (due to lack of time) in this production, I did get to help with headpieces. I had a lot of fun being creative with the miscellaneous supplies that were offered to us! The moms were pretty great too. That was definitely something I would do again!

Our Western Adventure – Cowboy Dinner

Some of the kids and I on the semi-covered wagon, heading out to the Cowboy Cookout.

Some of the kids and I on the semi-covered wagon, heading out to the Cowboy Cookout.

Our last evening in Yellowstone, we went to the Cowboy Cookout.

There were two options available; we could either ride horses to the cookout, or take a wagon ride. A couple of the kids didn’t want to do the horseback rides, so we went on the wagon ride. It was a lot of fun!

We got there plenty early to get checked in, go to the bathroom, etc. This was a good idea, since the line was quite long for the bathrooms. Then, we waited while they got all the horses hooked up, etc. One of the wranglers gave us some important info (such as “DON’T RUN!! It attracts bears”) that we needed to know before heading out. Then, they told us which wagons to go to, and we were off for a 25 minute or so wagon ride out to the cookout site.

Our fantastic story-teller of a wrangler.

Our fantastic story-teller of a wrangler.

Our wrangler was awesome! The whole way to the cookout, he entertained us/gave us a history lesson us with the story of Truman Everts, a man who was stranded in the park for 37 days, before Yellowstone was a National Park, or was fully explored. He got about halfway through the story on the way there, and finished on the way back. He was a great story-teller. So great, that after dinner on the cookout, he was telling “cowboy stories” around the campfire until it was time to go back.

The cookout food was delicious! It was a buffet with steak and all sorts of side dishes. My favorite was the apple cobbler. YUM! After a week of eating sandwiches for lunch every day, it was a welcome meal, and oh, so good! There were several choices of pop, lemonade, and “cowboy coffee.” The coffee was made over the campfire. Not sure how they did it, or what was different, but it was my first real coffee all week, and it was good!

I love that Grace is laughing so hard at this cowboy story!

I love that Grace is laughing so hard at this cowboy story!

During dinner, there was a man and woman playing guitar, singing cowboy songs. After dinner, the entertainment moved around the huge fire pit, for more songs, and the cowboy stories I referred to earlier.

Overall, this was a really fun time. The whole family enjoyed it. I would definitely go again, though, next time, I want to do the horseback ride!

Side note

On the way to the cookout, we drove up Mt. Washburn. The road going up was treacherous. I was glad I wasn’t driving. I’m sure Jason wished I was! Despite the extremely poor road going up, it was a gorgeous view at the top. I’d say it was worth it!

The petrified tree

The petrified tree

We also stopped to see the petrified tree. It was cool to see, only because we had never seen one before. Other than that, it was kind of sad. It was fenced off so people wouldn’t steal parts of it…


On the way back to our campsite, we saw the most amazing double rainbow any of us had ever seen. The entire sky was purple. The rainbow made a complete arc across the sky from end to end, with the brightest, most amazing colors ever! I kind of understand where the guy in that famous internet video was coming from… I think we all sounded about the same. It was a perfect way to end our awesome Yellowstone vacation!

This picture does not do the beautiful rainbow justice, but it gives an idea.

This picture does not do the beautiful rainbow justice, but it gives an idea.

Our Western Adventure – Boiling River

1645On our second to last day in Yellowstone, we went to the Boiling River. It was one of the favorites for almost everyone.

What makes the Boiling River swimming area special, is that it’s an area where the Mammoth Hot Springs empty into the Gardner River. Temperatures fluctuate from feeling icy cold, to burning hot. There are places you can stand where one leg feels super hot, while the other is cold. It’s definitely a neat experience!

Other features include a couple of small waterfalls (but they are too hot to go under), and stone sculptures. People created these small sculptures in the areas where the water is colder, the current flows faster, and/or, on the other side of the river. When you notice them, you can’t help but be impressed by the balancing acts of the stones (and admire the patience of the people who created them)!

We were eating at this picnic table literally less than 5 minutes before this picture was taken. We had no idea there were any elk around!

We were eating at this picnic table literally less than 5 minutes before this picture was taken. We had no idea there were any elk around!

Side Note: We had hoped to be able to spend some time in Mammoth, but time just didn’t allow. It’s definitely on our “must see” list for next time. What we could see from the road while driving through, looked pretty cool. We stopped on the way to the river to have a picnic dinner just outside the Mammoth Hotel. No more than about 3 minutes after we got up to throw our trash away, a few elk came (seemingly out of nowhere) and took over the area we had just been in. After we left our picnic, we headed out to do some swimming.

When we got to the parking area, it was full. We had to park in an overflow lot across the street. When we walked across to begin the hike down to the river, there were a couple of elk next to the road/driveway in a grassy area. The female that was closest to the parking lot seemed a bit agitated, and kept bellowing (or whatever you call an elk’s sound). I was wearing a red shirt. After an experience I had as a kid, when I was chased by a bull while wearing a red jumper, I was feeling a bit nervous. I was sure she was yelling at me. I walked very slowly by her, trying to give her as much space as I could.

Part of the trail leading to the swimming area.

Part of the trail leading to the swimming area.

To get to the swimming area, it is anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 a mile hike down a path. It was a nice walk, and well worth it in the end. That being said, you never know what you might encounter…. Jason and most of the kids had gone ahead. Michael came back to change, since there was no port-a-potty or other area to change down by the river. This would have been helpful to know before we started walking down there… Michael and I saw a small snake cross our path as we walked.

This guy decided to block the main entrance to the river.

This guy decided to block the main entrance to the river.

For some reason, I ended up getting to the river last. Four of the kids were already swimming, while Jason and Nikolai were “watching our stuff.” There were quite a few people there! As I was getting to the final part of the path that went to the water, I watched an elk cross the river, and stand directly between me and where everyone else was at. I tried to wait him out, but he was enjoying some tasty grass… I decided to back track, and walk in the water to where everyone was at. That was tricky, but I did make it.

I would recommend for anyone planning on swimming in the Boiling River to wear some sort of strap on sandals or water socks. The rocks are slippery, and some are rather large. It can be tricky to maneuver around in the water, especially when you are looking for the perfect spot to sit or swim. I tried the first time bare-foot. I learned my lesson, and wore my sandals when I went back in (after setting my bag down on the shore). Jason was wearing flip flops, and when one caught on a rock and popped up, he slipped. It could have been a disaster!

The water in the warm half of the Boiling River is not very deep.

The water in the warm half of the Boiling River is not very deep.

There were 2-3 areas that almost seemed like the rocks were placed just so, creating man-made hot tubs (I’m guessing people put the rocks that way to create sitting areas). Temps in these areas were perfect for basking. Unfortunately, those areas were pretty full of families who got there long before us.

Our kids had a great time swimming, testing the different areas, and skipping rocks across the river (which isn’t very wide). We would definitely come back the next time we come to Yellowstone.

Twin Cities Tap Festival – 2015

Grace and I attended the first ever Twin Cities Tap Festival last weekend. What a cool experience!

The festival had a lot to offer. On Thursday night, there was a Student Showcase. We didn’t go, but after seeing who all the performers were, we would have loved it.

078Master classes were offered by several different instructors at 3 different levels. Grace attended one intermediate class, taught by Bruce DeMorrow. We have seen him at competitions, but have never gotten to see him dance, let alone take a class from him. Grace really enjoyed his class! In addition to the dance routine they learned, she especially had fun doing tap improv, something she rarely has an opportunity to do. She said their instructions were to imagine they were having a conversation with another person, using only their feet to communicate. Fun!

Grace wanted to take more classes, but at $30/class, plus a $25 registration fee, just after homecoming, I was kind of tapped out (no pun intended). I thought the price of the classes was just about right, though it would have been great if they offered bundle pricing for students wishing to take multiple classes. This year, if you registered before August 1st, you would pay only for the classes. Next year, we will definitely register before the cut off date; that’s one more class she could have taken (or I could have taken one with her).

Grace and teammate Paige, who also took class with Bruce DeMorrow.

Grace and teammate Paige, who also took class with Bruce DeMorrow.

After the Master Class, was the Masters Concert. There were solo and group performances by some amazing tappers from both Minnesota, and around the world. The show started out with Nico Rubio, bringing some humor into his tapping. He had some crazy movements with his legs and feet, and made incredible sounds!

We were impressed with all the soloists at how many different sounds they were able to make, with what looked like very little movement of their feet at all! Many of the soloists performed improv, accompanied by live music. There were dances that demonstrated how feet can be used as instruments. The Kaleena Miller Dance group literally played their music with their feet. Like a choir all singing melodies and harmonies, several parts coming together to make beautiful music, so were the four performers with their feet. Each person had their part in the music, sometimes it was the melody, sometimes it was the harmony, but together, they created a song (and dance).

One thing that really struck me as amazing, was the dynamics these experts were able to create with their feet. As someone who takes tap, I can say that is not an easy feat. When we tap in class, there is one volume. We are often so focused on getting the right steps, that making some of them louder, and some softer, is not even in the back of our minds. Lisa La Touche really showed some dynamics in her performance (as did others)

076The fourth performance of the show was by Elite Tap Feet. This was a group that Grace auditioned for back in May, but did not get selected for. Of the 50 or so who auditioned, only about 15 were chosen. One of them was Grace’s first “big sister” at Lake Area Dance Center, Madelyn Lee. Madelyn is currently one of the studio’s youngest dance teachers and choreographers, and is an all-around wonderful person. We were so proud of her for being part of this group!! What I really enjoyed about the Elite Tap Feet performance was the energy level this group of teens had. They all looked like they were really enjoying themselves on stage. I also appreciated that none of the dancers had on “competition makeup” or fake eyelashes. It was quite refreshing to them looking much more natural than we normally do when we see them at competitions.

The last performance of the night, was by Sam Weber. He started out with some improv, then went into another full performance of a self-choreographed piece. He was talented, and beautiful (yes, I said that about a man). He was graceful, and he made every step look simple, even though I know it was extremely difficult. Sam’s performance had to have been at least 4-5 minutes (if not longer). How he kept up his stamina, without looking even a bit winded, is beyond me. I guess that’s why he’s the Master!?!

Most of the event took place at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. It’s a really cool theater, with an “old” appearance. This is the second dance event we have attended at this theater, and we have enjoyed both of them. The classes were mostly held at the Marriott Hotel just around the corner.

We will definitely attend the Twin Cities Tap Festival again! Next year, we will register further in advance, so we can beat the registration fee. I will likely also take classes. It sounded like way too much fun not to (even if my daughter is embarrassed that her mom is in the class). Grace plans on auditioning again for Elite Tap Feet, especially now that she has one under her belt. We will also attend the Master Concert again, and will likely attend the Student Showcase as well.

MN State Karate Championships – 2015

Last weekend, Michael represented Forte’s American Karate in the MN State Karate Championships. It was held at the Earle Brown Heritage Center, in Brooklyn Park, MN. This is a nice venue for the tournament, though the main room isn’t quite large enough for all the rings. There were other areas at the site that held other rings.

106This was the first tournament in this year’s karate competition season. With one season under his belt, Michael was much less nervous than last year! He has since moved up in belts, and is now competing in the 10 year old boys, brown belt division. So far, he is still competing in Open Hand Traditional Forms, and sparring. We’ll see if that ends up changing as time goes on. As all the boys lined up, I couldn’t believe how competitors there were! For both sparring and forms, they had to split the group into 2 rings. I think there were about 17 for sparring alone!!

The tournament was run a little different than some of the others we had been to, in that under brown belts went first. Michael had spent the morning watching and cheering on his friends from karate class. Many were competing for the first time, others were starting their second season as well. Overall, his teammates did pretty well. Next, were the brown belts. Because so many had already competed, Michael had some friends standing ringside, cheering him on. I think he was pretty excited about his mini-cheering section, because he did awesome!

113It was one of the first times that Michael’s name was not chosen to go first in forms. In fact, he was the last competitor in his group to go. There was some pretty tough competition! I guessed him to be about second or third place, though I knew it was probably the best I have seen him ever do it. Then it was time for scoring…. Most of the boys ranged in the 9.94-9.96 range, with one or two 9.98s given out. When it was Michael’s turn to be scored, he got all three 9.98s!!! He knew he had placed on top, as did those of us watching him. A big cheer went up from family members, and teammates! It was very exciting, especially since he’s never placed 1st in forms before! He tried really hard not to smile, but we could see that he was beaming on the inside.

Michael scoring 2 points against his opponent.

Michael scoring 2 points against his opponent.

Shortly after forms, it was time for sparring. The boys have to get suited up in all their gear pretty quickly. As I mentioned, they split the boys into two rings. They had them all line up by height. Originally, Michael was the shortest of the taller group (not by much), but when another boy showed up to spar, Michael got bumped to the other ring. The judges he had in the new ring, were some of his favorites from past tournaments, and included one of his first karate teachers.

In the sparring ring, Michael was chosen to be in the first match. He had to spar against a boy from Team Edge that he hadn’t been able to defeat before. He was feeling pretty confident after that first place win in forms. He was also pumped up because his karate teachers were done judging for a while, and were watching him. He did great, and won the first match. After watching a couple more matches, he had to spar the winners from those. He won all three matches, and took first overall in sparring!

137The first tournament of the year in the books, and Michael left with 2 first place trophies… I’d say this tournament season is starting on the right foot! I can’t wait to see how the rest of it goes!

Our Western Adventure – Rivers and Creeks and Waterfalls, Oh My!

We watched these two elk for quite a while as the frolicked in the field, and eventually crossed the river further downstream.

We watched these two elk for quite a while as they frolicked in the field, and eventually crossed the river further downstream.

All throughout Yellowstone National Park, there are rivers, creeks, lakes, and amazing waterfalls in addition to the other water features I have already written about. Besides how beautiful the scenery was, the animals were attracted to the areas as well.

On Wednesday of our trip, we saw 2 elk playing in the water. We sat and watched them for quite a long time. The sounds the female elk make are much higher than what you’d expect from such a huge animal. We guessed one might have been the mother of the other, as the one we suspected was the younger kept making yipping noises. We cracked up every time we heard that sound!

Another time we stopped at an overlook at one of the rivers, a badger decided he wasn’t so sure he wanted to let us get back to our car. We had to very slowly walk past his den, one at a time, never taking our eyes off him. Many animals in Yellowstone will run after you if you run. We didn’t want to test the badger to see if he would be one of them. Our wrangler on our Cowboy Dinner later in the week told us there are 3 B’s to watch out for in Yellowstone: Bears, Badgers, and Buffalo. They are all dangerous. Happily, we were smart around all 3, and no one was hurt.

creek walkA few times during the week, we passed by a creek that had a geyser on one side. On Wednesday, we decided to spend some time walking in the creek. While it was a little slippery on the rocks and moss-type plants, it was fun to walk across. We didn’t get too close to the geyser, even though it wasn’t going off.

This was the geyser just behind us to the left that is not shown in the above picture.

This was the geyser just behind us to the left that is not shown in the above picture.

On of the most amazing views was when we went to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It was so beautiful, we went twice. Wednesday, we went on one side, Friday, we went to the other side. The canyon is very deep, and has several waterfalls along the river. We went to a place called Inspiration Point. The kids weren’t very impressed, since part of it was closed. Most of it though, was amazing!

One of the waterfalls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

One of the waterfalls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

On Friday, when we went to the opposite side of the canyon, a few of us decided to take a little hike. We wanted to go to one of the two spots that go right to the top edge of the waterfalls. Nikolai, Michael, Dysin and I started the hike to Uncle Tom’s Trail. This trail has 300 steps that take you to the edge of the falls. It is not an easy hike. Somehow, along the trail, I looked at the map, and doubted we were going to the right place. We turned around, and hiked a different trail the opposite direction. When we passed the rest of the family, Dysin decided to stay with them. We hiked the trail the took us to an overlook over Upper Falls. It turned out that Uncle Tom’s Trail WAS the trail we were looking for. :-(  We added it to our “things we definitely don’t want to miss next time” list.

A view from near the top of one of the waterfalls.

A view from near the top of one of the waterfalls.

One thing we didn’t do that would have been cool, was to swim in the Firehole River. As we were driving to that area, we realized the road that goes to the main Firehole River area was fairly narrow, and was FULL. People were parked everywhere, and we decided to just drive through. This was another thing added to the list of things we will definitely do next time. We did, however, swim in the Boiling River. More on that later.

Sunsets over the lake were gorgeous!

Sunsets over Yellowstone Lake were gorgeous!

Whether it be pulling over to watch animals play in or near the water, walking to an extraordinary view of the many waterfalls, or skipping rocks across a creek, you won’t want to miss checking out the many water features in Yellowstone Park!

Our Western Adventure – Journey to Jackson

1090On Tuesday of our 9 day Western Adventure, we drove from the middle of Yellowstone National Park, to Jackson, WY. It was a beautiful drive, full of many stops.

The Teton Mountains were beautiful!! One of my favorite scenic spots, was when we stopped at Colter Bay. There are several things to do at the visitor center here, including read about the glacier on Grand Teton. The plaque showed a picture of the changes in the glacier over time. This bay was also just a beautiful spot overall! I would love to stay here for a few nights on our next trip this direction.

Jason and the kids at Colter Bay. Grand Teton and the glacier can be seen in the background.

Jason and the kids at Colter Bay. Grand Teton and the glacier can be seen in the background.

Some of our other stops along the way included: the top of the tree line in the mountains (brr, it was cold up there), a place we could walk down to Jackson Lake and feel the water, and several spots that were just plain beautiful! Somewhere along the way, we stopped and had a picnic in the mountains…

Another favorite stop, was the Jackson Lake Dam. One side of the dam looked like an amphitheater. Across the street, on the other side of the dam, there were people fishing, and lots of rocks, perfect for skipping. This was Dysin’s highlight of the day! We were having a great time until one of the fishermen came up from further down the river, and asked us to stop. He said we were scaring the fish away… yeah, because the dam making all that noise right next to us, wouldn’t have any effect on the fish, right? Whatever! ;-)

This area, below Jackson Lake Dam, was a great area to skip rocks, and play... we could have stayed her much longer!

This area, below Jackson Lake Dam, was a great area to skip rocks, and play… we could have stayed here much longer!

Jackson Lake Dam - a great place to skip rocks, and play by the river.

Eventually, we made it to our goal, Jackson. This was a cool little town. We spent much of the day relaxing in the park in the center of the town. The four corners of this cute little park were made up of four archways made entirely of elk antlers. The local Boy Scouts go out and collect the antlers that have been shed by elk, to be auctioned off in the park every year.

When we weren’t enjoying the perfect day, we explored the shops all along the main street in town. The kids enjoyed looking at all the art in an art store. It felt like being in a museum made up entirely of original art based on wildlife, Native Americans, and nature scenes. There is a Ripley’s Believe it or Not Emporium, and a historical museum in town, but we didn’t go to either due to the cost of bring 7 of us to each.

Pretty sure I have never seen so many flavors of salt water taffy! I'll have several of each!

Pretty sure I have never seen so many flavors of salt water taffy! I’ll have several of each!

We discovered a GREAT old fashioned candy store with salt water taffy by the barrel full! There’s something special about getting to choose from all those flavors! The walls were lined with jars of all different kind of candy, many of which I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. There were even candies I had never heard of before! I LOVED that store (so did Grace)!!!

After stocking up on candy, we ate dinner at a place called Pizzeria Caldera. While the crust was a little thinner than I cared for, it was delicious! We even tried bison pizza. Soo good!

Our family, standing under one of 4 arches made entirely of elk antlers.

Our family, standing under one of 4 arches made entirely of elk antlers.

Finally, it was time to head back to our campground in Yellowstone. We decided to take a back road, because there was a place “nearby” called The Aspens. Aspen really wanted to have his picture taken by the sign.

Finding this place took us through Jackson’s rush hour traffic, and through the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. We felt like we were not on the right road, because of how small it was. It did eventually bring us back out to a major road. While we hadn’t originally planned on taking this back way, we were glad we did.

One of the things that quickly becomes a common part of driving through Yellowstone and the entire area, is that people suddenly stop on the road, or pull over, for apparently no reason. The reason is usually, that there is an animal sighting. Every time we followed suit, we were not disappointed. While driving through the Rockefeller Preserve, we noticed people pulled over. It took us a minute to figure out why… there it was, a grizzly bear walking along in the woods. This was the only place on our whole trip that we saw a bear. For Michael, it was the highlight of the day.

Day 5 was a great day!

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