Sunday, January 22, 2012

Duluth ~ An anniversary trip

Duluth has been a long standing tradition of mine.  It started when I was young and my aunts Gloria and Janet (my dad's sisters) would take my sister Melissa and I up to Duluth for weekend excursions. 
I'd spent a lot of time trying to convince Russ to take a trip there and October of 2007, he finally gave in.  He took me to Duluth during an MEA break when I was in nursing school.  It was during that trip that he proposed to me.  So, it's needless to say that Duluth holds a very special place in BOTH of our hearts now. 
We've been back there several times together now, in fact, this trip was our 4th trip to Duluth together. 

When trying to figure out how to celebrate our anniversary (our 3rd) this year, I actually settled on Duluth pretty quickly, despite the fact that it was winter and Duluth can be chilly in summer even.  So, Russ and I decided on a hotel that we'd eyed a few times but hadn't stayed at yet...The South Pier Inn.  It is nestled into the south side of Duluth's famous Aerial Lift Bridge.  We treated ourselves to a harbor view room that had a fireplace, whirlpool and a private balcony looking out onto the harbor of Lake Superior in Duluth.

This will be a little picture heavy, as I had a hard time narrowing it down...LOL.  But here are some of my favorite photos from our anniversary trip to Duluth.

These first photos are from the Glensheen Mansion, which was home to the Congdon family in the early 1900's.  They don't allow you to take photos inside the house, but I was able to take photos of the grounds and inside the carriage house (not pictured below). 

The rather large, beautiful front door.  Where you would enter if you arrived by carriage or automobile.

The back of the house, which had the "second front door".  This is where you would enter if you arrived by boat.  Mrs. Congdon felt it was rude to have guests enter through the back door, so a formal "second front door" was made.  It entered into the same large foyer

A GORGEOUS bridge on the grounds of the Glensheen Mansion

After we finished visiting the Glensheen mansion, we went for lunch at Grandma's restaurant.  A local favorite, and a famous tradition.  From there we hopped across to the other side of the lift bridge to check into our hotel.  When we arrived I already knew we were in for a treat.  It was LITERALLY on the other side of the bridge.  We entered the lobby and there were treats, pastries (put out fresh each morning), microwave popcorn, microwave oatmeal, fresh fruit, coffee, etc all for the taking!  YUM!  We got to our room and I was even more excited.  The room was perfect...

That whirlpool was thoroughly enjoyed.  

Here's Russ out exploring our private balcony overlooking the harbor.  The inn provides binoculars with the stay so that you can further explore the harbor and the surrounding sights.  

A panoramic shot of the view from balcony

The inn...Shows you just how close to the bridge it is.

Here are a couple of shots of the bridge...I can't have a blog post about a trip to Duluth without including a few shots of the bridge.

This one was shot from Canal Park...On the north side of the bridge.  

This one was shot from the street right by our inn...On the south side of the bridge. 

When we woke up, a large group of ducks was noticed out in the frozen water.  They were fun to watch.  After we checked out of the hotel, we explored a little bit.  I took some very frozen, very cold looking photos. 

 Not your average "beach" shot.  :-)

 The ice seen here, was moving, propelled by the motion of the water underneath.  It almost looked like it was breathing as it heaved slightly upward and then down again.  As it moved, it creaked and moaned almost.  I took video of it, because it was in interesting experience. 

One side of Canal Park.  

The other side...

Little Angie's...This is a must for me whenever I visit Duluth.  I highly recommend it.  It's in the middle of Canal Park, just across the large parking lot from Grandmas and directly across the road from The Inn on Lake Superior. 

Goodbye Duluth...We'll miss you. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Just a little something to celebrate!

Man, I got hit hard this month with illness and I hope that I've paid my dues for the year. Started at the beginning of the month with a sinus infection an then only about 4 days after that, I got hit with a stomach bug. I'm finally feeling better today, was actually able to eat a normal size meal for lunch and I feel like I got my energy back. I'm actually just taking a break from cleaning...gotta get the buggies out of my house!
So, my feeling like a normal human being is the first thing I feel like celebrating!
The second item would be my upcoming wedding anniversary! This Tuesday will be our third anniversary! We are heading to the South Pier Inn in Duluth tomorrow to celebrate. We will have a room overlooking the harbor and will have a fireplace an whirlpool on the room! We LOVE Duluth. It's where we got engaged and have returned many times together. It's been almost 2 years since we've been due to our other trips that we took last year, so it'll be a much overdue return!

Then depending on how up to it we feel on Sunday morning (if I feel I have my strength back), we will be heading to Spirit Mountain for some snowboarding lessons! Yes, me...

I'm super excited for this as it is a much needed little getaway! You can bet that I'll be bringing my camera with. I haven't been to Duluth in the winter before and I'm eagerly anticipating its beauty. I'm just hoping that they've got a little bit more snow up there then we have.
Stay tuned for a trip review with pictures of course!
For now, I'll leave you with a phot from my wedding...three splendid years ago in a Minnesota winter wonderland.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Photo Challenge/Family Fun

So, this weeks photo challenge over at is all about family fun!  I had to really think about what photo I wanted to submit for this one and that, what better photo to use than one of my OWN family.

This photo was taken summer of 2010 at the wedding of one of my cousins.  I have some wonderful family that are just as quirky and weird as I am.  Here is a photo of 2 of my cousins and my sister as we entertained ourselves at the reception.

I love these ladies...  ;-)

Head on over to I Heart Faces to see more fun family photos!!!

Photo Challenge Submission

A couple new challenges for myself

I've come up with a couple new challenges for myself that I'm excited about. 
The first one is that whenever I'm listening to my music on shuffle...I will NOT allow myself to quickly skip past to the next song.  I do this often and I've noticed I generally listen to the same songs. 
I have over 2200 songs on my iPhone and don't listen to nearly enough of them.  But there is a reason that I put them on there in the first place (since I haven't put all my music library on there). 
So, my mission is that I'm going to take the time to listen to every song that comes on...whether it fast or slow, instrumental or matter the genre or the mood that I am in. 
I tend to try to seek out songs that I think will speak to me and the mood/emotions that I'm feeling and I know that I am overlooking so many wonderful songs that I just don't think about.  So, I'm going to let the songs find me.
Every few days, I'll come back on here and post about one or two songs that I'd forgotten about that had somehow found me when I needed them.  So, stay tuned for those.

Secondly, I'm going to make myself much more involved in the I heart faces photography challenges.  If you aren't familiar with what this is, you can head over to to learn more.  Basically at the beginning of each week, they open it up to submissions.  You can post one photo that fits that weeks theme, but all their photos require there to be at least one human face visible in the photo (hence the name of the website).  You can use photos that you've taken in the past (and I'm sure I'll have to do this on occasion), but my goal will be that (almost) all the photos that I'll submit will be new photos taken just for the challenge.  It'll force me to be creative and to hopefully think outside the box. 
Since the way you post is by posting a photo to your blog and then uploading the link to your blog...You can guess it...I'll be posting all my submissions on this blog right here!  So stay tuned for this. 
I'm excited about the upcoming themes.  The next three themes are "Family Fun", "By the Book" and "Oh So Silly". 

I'm excited to share these challenges with you all as I embark on some new exploration!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A goodbye and a new understanding

Today was a day of many emotions for me. I'm still quite worn out from a week of grieving, sinus infection and busy shifts and work.
Today was the funeral for my grandfather Tom. It was a beautiful service and so many people came out to say goodbye and to pay their respects. It's always wonderful to see how many other people truly cared about somebody that you love.
The service consisted of the traditional hymns, passages and prayers. It also consisted of stories love and friendship, of him using his kids as look-out while he stole lawn ornaments, mentions of his time as a bail bondsman, and yes...during this church service...the words hooker and horseshit were used.
He was a great man, a husband, a father, a grandfather and even enjoyed being a great-grandfather. He will be missed by so many.

Yet, while I listened to his children and his step-children speak of him...I also began experiencing another emotion aside from grief and loss. I was finding myself feeling jealousy.
Here these people are, in their 50's and 60's saying goodbye to their father. They had year after year with him, enjoyed his stories and anecdotes because they had him around at a point in their lives where they could understand how important those stories and anecdotes would be someday. He was there with them for their weddings and babies, for their accomplishments and adventures. Be was just shy of 94 when he died. He led a full and wonderful life.
I found myself feeling just a moment of jealousy because when I was just barely 20 years old, I was saying goodbye to my father. As I was saying goodbye to my dad I realized just how little I knew about him. Yes, others can tell me the stories...but I won't ever hear them myself.
I found myself feeling jealous because I didn't get that full life with my dad...he missed my college graduation, my wedding, my first house and he won't be there to spoil his first grandkids or tell those stories that he'd told a thousand times before.

Just feeling a bit sorry for myself today...and I'm just going to let myself.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Oy vey...

Let's just say that this has been a less than stellar week...
This past weekend I developed a nasty sinus infection that had me down and out for about 4 solid days (Friday-Monday) and I am still trying to get back to 100%. 
Also, this past Saturday, my grandfather passed away at the young age of 93 (would have been 94 next month).  Let's say that as hard as it is to say goodbye to such a wonderful man, this is a good thing.  His quality of life was greatly deteriorated and he'd been in and out of the hospital many times in the last few months. 

He will be greatly missed, but it's my grandmother that I worry about now.  I just hope that she can find some peace in all of this.  My mother has been an absolute SAINT!  She went down this past Thursday to stay with my grandma Georgia and is still down there.  She plans to stay with her for another few days until after the funeral.  It's been such a blessing to know that my mom is there with my grandma and that they've had each other these last few days. 
This Saturday will be his funeral and all of us, his loving family, will have to find a way to somehow say goodbye to this wonderful, loving man. 

I finally was feeling well enough today to get back to work and what a doozy of a day that was!  I obviously can't get into details, but it was one of the more stressful days I've had in a while.  Also, physically wearing...I at one point wanted to stick my head in the freezer to cool down because I was moving so non-stop that I was sweating...profusely!  I know, I know...more than you wanted to hear, but I'm sure I was starting to stink.  HA HA HA!  I didn't get a lunch break during all the craziness, but since all my patients were either discharged or transferred by the end of my shift, I got to duck out about 45 minutes early.
I stopped at Chipotle on the way home, and then the liquor store for a nice bottle of Riesling!  So, since I don't have to work again until Friday...Me and my bottle of wine are going to get cozy this evening and unwind a bit. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A new year, a new plan...A year in review!

Alright folks, I new that I was wanting to do some sort of blogging this year but struggled with exactly what I wanted to create...Until now!

I toyed with attempting the 365 day photo challenge again, then thought maybe I'll just do a weekly photo challenge.  Then I thought maybe I should just blog my thoughts and my life, etc.
Why not do both?!

I'm going to use this blog as an outlet for all things Amber!  It'll be a place to post about what's going on with my life, my thoughts, my poems, and yes...My photography!  I hope that in some ways this will allow everyone (that wants to, that is) to feel like they are keeping up with what's going on with me and my life even when we are all at our busiest!

So, I'm going to start with a year in review of 2011!  I saw another blogger chose to do a month by month review and I think that's a good way to start.

**January -
January saw my husband and I celebrating our 2nd wedding anniversary.  We had opted for a stay-cation which was wonderful and we'll probably do that again another year.  It's a great option for if you don't have the time or resources to travel.

**February -
February is always a fun month for me, seeing as how the 4th is my birthday!  It was a great birthday too.  Got together with several of my friends.  We went out to dinner then bowling with drinks and treats provided by my sister.  To top it off, I made it into a mustache party.  I provided stick-on mustaches for everyone and we all had to wear them while bowling.  It made for a lot of crazy antics, and it was definitely a good night!

This month was also the first time that I got to actually see Bobby Long!  I went with a couple of friends and we had a GREAT time! Check out one of the photos I got from that show!

 **March - 
I don't think much happened in March...It was cold.  LOL

**April - 
April was great!  Russ and I went to Vegas for his 30th birthday!  We spent a week there.  We stayed at the Golden Nugget in Downtown.  We saw the sights, ate good food, swam at the pool, had lots of drinks and even went ATV'ing in the desert!  

April, all in all was a busy month for me.  On top of the Vegas trip, I had several photo shoots and made it to a Twins game (with my dear friends Crystal and Jason)!  But, I definitely can't wait to get back to Vegas again!!

May was just a good month for spending time with friends.  I went to a baby shower, attending a gathering at a friends for an X-Box party night, went out for lunches and shopping.  Also, attended another Twins game this month (this time with our neighbors Mike and Rachel).  

June was a GREAT month!  On the first day of the month I attending the Glee concert!  I went with some of the greatest friends and we had an AMAZING time!  I laughed, I cried, I sang along!  Here's a couple photos.  

Needless to say, it was an AMAZING concert!!!!
Then, just a couple days later on the 3rd day of June, I was driving home from work and happened to pass a lady who was selling puppies!  Russ and I stopped by and found one that we fell in LOVE with.  He was immediately ours and he came home with us that day.  His name is Copper and he is an amazing addition to our house.  Here's a couple photos from the day we brought him home!

The rest of the month consisted of adjusting to having a puppy (Russ and I hadn't done the puppy thing before), enjoying the beautiful summer weather, going to another Twins game, went to a Saints game with my friend Kristin and just enjoying life!  OOOOh, I also got a new tattoo in the month of June.  My mom, sister and I got coordinating memorial tattoos for my dad.  They are all guitars.  They are each slightly different.

 My sister's tattoo (back of left arm)

My Tattoo (left forearm)

My mom's tattoo (Right shoulder blade)

4th of July!  One of my favorite holidays!  I LOVE the 4th of July...Parties with friends, parades, fireworks, carnival down in town!  FOOD!  I spent July enjoying life some more.  Yet another Twins game, spending time with friends, enjoying the summer and oh yeah...Enjoying the dog!
We also got some new bedroom furniture this month.  It was great to be able to re-do the bedroom a bit, give it a new feel!
The Twins game that we went to was one of the HOTTEST days of the year and I surprisingly was able to last the whole game!  Here's a couple photos from the hot, hot day!

August was a busy month for me.  I worked a lot, had several photo shoots (and I mean SEVERAL), attending my 10 year high school reunion, a great friend came home from Florida to visit, went to the state fair, etc.  Here's a few photos to share the month of August with you...Oooh, and Copper got bigger!

September was another great month of spending time with family and friends. I went to the Renaissance festival (dressed as a Gypsy), went dancing with my girls, had a bonfire with my neighbors, and went to my first Vikings game! Also, we took Copper to an off leash dog park for the first time He had a BLAST!! Here are a few photos from thy wonderful month!


October was an EPIC month for me, both good and bad. The month started with Russ and I heading to Maui, Hawaii for the vacation of a lifetime! We stayed for 9 glorious days. We spent lots of time on the beach, went to a luau, explored the island, took the historic drive to Hana, the popped over to Honolulu to see Waikiki beach and Pearl Harbor.
I almost cried the day we left, it was such an incredible trip and I hope to repeat it someday in the future! Here are some of my favorite photos from our trip (although it is difficult to narrow it down).

Then...2 weeks after I returned I was in a severe/major car accident.
I was driving to work (heading south on 35e in the left hand lane), and had taken my eyes off the road for just a moment. That moment was all that was necessary to change my life.
When my eyes returned to the road, I had drifted on to the left hand shoulder. I tried to pull back onto the road and went too far and was heading into the right hand lane of traffic so I re-corrected and ended up over-correcting. My car hit the left hand shoulder at an angle and flipped my car. I rolled (about 3 times) across the median, across both lanes of northbound traffic and looped back to land back in the median. I luckily landed right side up. Somebody that witnessed my accident stopped and came to check on me while his wife called 911. I had severe head lacerations and was bleeding heavily and due to the shock of the accident I was shaking uncontrollably but I was alive and thankfully hadn't broken a single bone in my body.
I took an ambulance ride to Regions Hospital on a back board with a neck brace on. Luckily, they cleared me quickly and I didn't have to have them on for long at the hospital. My mom and Russ showed up pretty soon after I did and I'm sure it was hard for them to see me covered in blood and wearing a neck brace. I was in the ER for about 6 hours, and left with 5 sutures in one laceration, 7 sutures in another and one laceration they couldn't close.
I was terribly sore for several days, and sorta sore for a couple weeks. The thing that affected me the most was the anxiety. I've never had panic attacks before in my life and started having them after the accident and my day to day anxiety was somewhat hard to handle. With a LOT of support from my amazing friends and family and a little pharmacological help, I've moved far past that awful anxiety and it only strikes now at moments of particular stress.
To give you a better idea as to exactly what I went through with my car accident...Here are some photos of my car.

I did end the month on a good note, Russ and I attended a Halloween costume party as the amazing Al and Peggy Bundy!

November was relatively calm considering the craziness of October.  I did a lot of healing (both physically and mentally) and recovering.  I spend as much time as I could with friends and family and spent a LOT of time enjoying my new car!  After the accident we got me (and 2 weeks later, Russ got one too) a 2012 Nissan Altima!  I have been lusting after this car since 2007 and have been so ecstatic to have it!  It's BEAUTIFUL and has plenty of amenities! 

I ended my year on a calm yet blissful note.  Not a whole lot happened in December.  There was plenty of evenings snuggled up on the couch with Russ, a couple of times of letting Copper play in the snow and as usual...Some good times spent with family and friends.  Christmas Eve as usual was spent with my father's family.  We always have a good time.  We eat good food, play some fun games and enjoy some great conversation.
Russ and I rang in the new year at home, just the two of us and it was perfect.  It was nice to have a low-key mellow night in. 

Well, folks...If you've made it this far, I commend you. 
I hope to post often on here with updates on my life, anecdotes, poems, songs that touch me and of course my photography...So stay tuned, I hope to provide you with some entertainment as you follow the Adventures of a Songbird!