Blog, Parenting, Risk, Travel

Why Travel?

I am a firm believer that “Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.” (~St. Augustine). This can sometimes get people reeling!! I’ve had people tell me, “you are too busy (to travel)!” Others have said, “why can’t you be content?” These statements weren’t likely meant with malice, but did give me pause. I certainly have no interest in taking offense. Everyone has different opinions. I actually love it when people ask me questions, or are confused about my desire to travel. I have to chuckle when “contentment” is brought up. I am at a place of such peace and contentment with my life right now, and for me, a huge part of that, is because of travel. The truth is, I have chosen to not be complacent. And for me, that means expanding my ‘comfort zone’. Forcing myself to learn, grow, experience. I have chosen to read as much of the ‘Book of the World’ instead of just reading one page. Minnesota, Wisconsin, the whole mid-west IS truly beautiful! And there is so much more beauty and adventure to uncover – why would I want to just stop here?

I am at complete peace with the fact that others may not have this desire. Perhaps you choose to spend your finances differently. Perhaps you don’t like boats or airplanes. Perhaps your ‘Book of the World’ is viewed differently, and that is perfectly perfect. For me, and for my family, traveling has created some of the most amazing memories we have made. Aaron and I are able to unplug. We are able to experience things we would never get to experience here.

A natural sandbar where you can pet wild stingrays?

Stringrays

Red Rock Beach & Fira, Santorini, Greece

San1San2

Myrtle Beach, SC

SC1

Wailea, Maui, Hawaii

Maui

For me, every. single. penny. I have spent traveling has been worth itself, ten-fold. The truth is, I didn’t travel much growing up, but when we did, it was truly amazing. For my family to spend an entire weekend together in Green Bay, or 2-3 weeks exploring Montana, are some of the fondest memories of my childhood. I have always been drawn to travel. In 6th grade, I babysat, at $3/hour, and on 40% of my income (my mom suggested I save 50% and give 10% to church), I bought myself my first plane ticket, and traveled on my first plane, alone, to Florida to visit my grandparents. The next year – the same thing – except my Mom and I both went to California. And following that, another solo-trip to Texas to visit my other grandparents. I set a goal. I wrote it down. I acted on it. I called travel agents before I even had $100 saved, so I could understand what I would need, what the flight times were like. I kept it alive – and the dream came true.  I worked hard for it. I sacrified other things. CDs? Nope – never had more than 5 of them, ever, to my name. Movies? Same thing. Clothes – going into my freshman year of high school, I rotated the same 5 outfits. This isn’t about ‘having the money’, or having the ‘time’. It’s realizing that we all have, deep within, dreams, and goals. It’s our choice, what we decided to do with those. Some buy a fleet of snowmobiles, some build an amazing cabin, some start a non-profit, and some travel. We each have the desire to learn and know more. Whatever you choose to do, to see the “Book of the World” – Whether you travel on a plane, or through pictures and stories of others, books or magazines, I hope you soak up the rich culture, food, people and opportunities that this world is overflowing with and encourage others to do the same.

Happy Travels,

H Bloomer

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Food & Drink

Legacy Chocolates

It was a dank and drizzly day. The kind of day where the rain is gently pattering against the window…lulling me into tangential daydreams. But, I was at work! With three hours left before quitting time! I needed a comforting cup of caffeine to boost my consciousness, and I needed it stat! So, I ventured from my desk, umbrella in hand, and set out to find the best cup of coffee I could find.

A couple of weeks ago, a co-worker had informed me of this great place just a city block North of Kellogg Blvd and Robert Street in downtown St. Paul. Legacy Chocolates, “Bringing peace, love, and happiness, one truffle at a time.” Intrigued, I visited and ended up purchasing a gift card and bag of coffee for a National Boss Day gift. Yes, this is a real holiday and everyone I work with who reports to the same boss also chipped in. This was not just a random, yet ingenious, attempt to get a pay raise.

This dreary day seemed like the perfect time to return, but this time for my own perk-me-up. I’m hilarious in a coffee shop because I have no idea of what anything is. I’m newer to this coffee drinking thing. The patient barista guided me through my order which started as a Macchiato…morphed into a Latte…with him ultimately deciphering that what I really craved was a Mocha. Now I know. He was right. Delicious. Creamy, nutty, made with steamed almond milk, rich chocolatey drizzle, and completely free of calories totally flavorful.

I’d highly recommend checking out the amazing selection of hand-crafted dark chocolate truffles while you are there. I also observed a case full of devilish looking delights covered with fudge, chocolate chips and cream cheese. Enter if you dare. Support small business. Indulge. I’ll be back and I’ll be sending my friends. I know where I’m buying holiday gifts, birthday gifts, and National Boss Day gifts from now on.

Before you go, know there is limited seating, but still adequate and quiet space to have a conversation with friends. Parking is what it is in downtown St. Paul, with meters on the street just outside the Pioneer Endicott building where Legacy Chocolates is located. If you prefer not to fight with traffic or compete for parking, check out their online store where you can purchase fresh, high quality treats. Go. Enjoy, and let me know your favorite item when you’re done!

My idea of health food.

My idea of health food.

I will take one of each.

I will take one of each.

So much chocolate...so little time.

So much chocolate…so little time.

For the love of chocolate,

A. Lockhart

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Blog, Home & Garden, Shopping

Cars, Crossovers, SUVs…Oh My!

We are on a search for a new vehicle or two. We have absolutely loved our 2003 Toyota Camry and 2008 Ford Edge. Our Camry was the car we bought right after getting married – it has taken us all over the United States, and has been there to take each of our kiddos home from the hospital, back and forth to daycare, and on many road trips across MN and WI. Our Edge has also been amazing. Its trunk space and ability to “drive like a car” have been wonderful.

However, it is time to put on a search for our next amazing vehicles/members of the family.

In a car, we are looking for: great gas mileage, high-end technology, easy to maneuver, and a great track record for transmission and other “worries.”

In an SUV, we are looking for: 7 seats, middle row bucket seats, easy to drive & park, decent storage space, not a mini-van, and also a great track record.

How do we even begin? There are so many options, in so many different price ranges. To test drive them all, it would take months!

As I embark on this journey, please shout out with ideas, feedback and advice. I will keep solid notes of all of my experiences, and ensure all of our reader fans receive a full report after the “dotted line is signed.”

Cheers,

H Bloomer

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Uncategorized

School Shopping

My oldest child is four years old. She will be turning five this February. This means it is time to start exploring school options for next Fall. We live in a section of the city that has some interesting school boundaries. Someone told me it had something to do with the way the farmland was mapped before all the developments popped up. Currently, the school we are zoned for is about eight miles away in the opposite direction of where my husband and I work. A referendum passed last year that will mean a brand new school a quarter mile away…but it won’t be ready until Fall of 2017. That will be the year my youngest child will be entering Kindergarten. What to do for the one year gap in the meantime?!

Options

  1. I can do nothing and my daughter will attend the school she is zoned for. However, this would involve sending her eight miles in one direction, my youngest 3 miles in the opposite direction (to daycare), and my husband and I revising our work schedules to be home to pick both of them up at their various times.
  2. Hold my daughter from starting school until 1st grade (Kindergarten is not mandatory), and then both girls start the new school at the same time. However, this means paying for daycare one year longer than necessary. Daycare isn’t cheap. Also, I do think my daughter will be beyond ready to start school next Fall.
  3. Start touring other options and figure out the Open Enrollment procedures. There are charter schools, schools in other districts nearby, private schools, and Montessori schools. So many options!!

My goal is to have an efficient schedule conducive to two working parents. If at all possible I would like the girls to move in tandem with each other. As they get older it’s inevitable I’ll be going in all kinds of directions. The longer I can delay that madness- the better. Of course, I also want the best educational program I can find. A building that has modern security systems, but isn’t scary to access. I’d prefer to drive them to school instead of taking the bus. Oh, and a diverse student body, not too large, not too small, offering foreign language as early as Pre-K… Sound like an impossible wish list living in the Twin Cities? Surprisingly, I may have actually already found something. My husband and I toured a program a couple of days ago that seems to fit all my major wants. The application process doesn’t start until after January 1 and acceptance is by lottery. Wish me luck.

Whatever Happens

I’m so grateful for having all these choices. The thought and action of school shopping feels a little overwhelming at times, but no matter what ends up happening, I feel confident knowing that the best education they will receive is entirely under my control. It will happen at home, in all the active parenting, storytimes, consistency, travel, swim lessons, dance classes, playtime, and involvement of family and friends. I love being a parent.

Do you have any tips for the school shopping process? Is sending your kids on the bus as scary as it seems? What do I need to know before I send my kids off to school next year?

Best,

A. Lockhart

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Uncategorized

Pumpkin Fest at Gerten’s- Perfect Event for Families

How is it that Halloween has become a month long holiday? Boo Fests, Ghoul Fests, Fun Fests…it seems there is literally something every weekend leading up to the actual night of Trick or Treating! At least it allows parents to get their money’s worth out of costumes! This weekend my family spent a lovely Saturday afternoon at Gerten’s in Inver Grove Heights. Gerten’s is a metropolis for all things lawn and garden. They have the most amazing selection of high-quality hardy annuals and perennials in the Twin Cities Metro Area.

Abundant perennials to choose from at Gerten's.

Abundant perennials to choose from at Gerten’s.

Each Saturday in October, from 10a-4p, Gerten’s hosts Pumpkin Fest. This is the perfect event for families with preschool age or younger children. They have bounce houses, pumpkin painting, story time, a small petting zoo, and plenty of pumpkins to choose from. In addition, I noticed they partner with Pine Tree Apple Orchard to bring in concessions at extremely reasonable prices. It’s hard enough to resist an apple cinnamon donut, but at 50 cents each…well, I can go to the gym tomorrow!

“Mary Poppins” read us a Halloween story inside the nursery. She then let the eager listeners pick out a piece of candy. My girls each went for the Nestle Crunch. Ms. Poppins verified that they liked chocolate and they were like, “Ummm, YES!” (Silly question!) We then meandered over to the petting zoo and saw goats, alpacas, and a miniature horse. The girls were excited to head over to the bounce houses. My husband joined them in the “haunted maze.” I thought it was nice they didn’t charge him the ticket price. They probably should have, but their criteria is “if you wouldn’t normally go in this unless you had kids with you we won’t charge you.” Little did they know… he probably would have gone in there regardless. #kidatheart

Oh, to be young and bouncing free.

bouncing

Oh, to be young and bouncing free.

We ended our time at Gerten’s by picking out some gorgeous autumn colored mums and of course, a pumpkin. Their pumpkins are HUGE and a great value for the price compared to other locations I’ve seen. Plenty to pick from for $5 and under. All and all it was a joyful fall event for the family. There is still one more Saturday left (10/24/15) to join in the fun. If you haven’t been, I strongly recommend you check it out! Don’t forget to bring your camera. The Gerten’s crew created a variety of spooktacular backdrops to get some gorgeous fall photos.

Happy Halloween-for-the-entire-month-of-October!

A. Lockhart

Perfectly Priced Pumpkins FullSizeRender (2) FullSizeRender (4)

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Blog, Food & Drink, Travel

Javier’s

Back when Aaron and I lived in California (2006-2007) we would frequently visit a little restaurant named Javier’s. It was tucked into the shops on the main street of Laguna Beach. We loved is quaint place so much, that we would frequently take guests to visit as well! Free chips and salsa, $3 margaritas, and amazing enchiladas – what’s not to love, right?!

Fast forward almost 10 years – and Javier’s has turned into an amazing, upscale, “foodie” location. They are located in Newport Coast (and have been featured on many TV shows, including Real Housewives of Orange County), Irvine, Cabo and Las Vegas.

The aesthetic and views are amazing. The service is spectacular. And of course, the enchiladas are still to-die-for. The margaritas hit the spot, each and every time, although they are no longer $3, it is still definitely worth a visit to Javier’s if you ever have the opportunity. I had the opportunity to visit this past weekend of Las Vegas, and my expectations continue to be exceeded!

Heidi & Megan, enjoying dinner at Javier's Las Vegas

Heidi & Megan, enjoying dinner at Javier’s Las Vegas

Cheers,

Heidi

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Blog, Career, Friendship

Change

Change is hard sometimes. Even for those of us who ‘love change’, it still can create confusion, nostalgia and anxiety! None of which are bad, but they are sometimes hard to process.

Let me explain where I am coming from…

I left an ’employer’ I had been working for/with for 8.5 years. I remember interviewing with my “future boss”, K, over the phone as my dad and I were eating lunch during a packing break in Riverside California, as A and I were working on heading back to MN. To be honest, I didn’t even know I applied for a place called, “TRIA”, and had to research them when I got off the phone with her! A week later, I interviewed, and was offered a job in their call center the same day. It was a dream come true. I would be making “real money” and working in healthcare. What more could I want?! Well, after a few weeks, I wanted more. Specifically, I wanted to find a bigger way to add value. K introduced me to some leaders in the organization. And from there, things spiraled into an amazing 8.5 years.

As I look back at how life has played out, specifically with my opportunity to begin working at TRIA, it is sometimes hard to fathom. K became such a fantastic friend and colleague, and a few years later, we were able to start a new leader role at TRIA, together. The leaders she introduced me to provided me amazing experiences, and today, one of them, B, is a primary mentor in my career, and I continue to be blessed by working with her at a client of mine – as well as another leader, M, who I am currently on a plane to enjoy a fabulous weekend-away with. The friends and relationships that have come out of TRIA can’t be described. And then let’s talk about the career opportunity! I mean seriously – I look at two of my clients, and both are due to relationships and reputation built at TRIA. In addition to the skill set, problem solving and other knowledge I gain during my time there. I am so incredibly grateful they are an organization who looks to mentor, grow and build up their team. They look at attitude and work ethic, versus allowing some capital letters on a piece of paper to dictate your work.

Ultimately, I don’t believe in luck. Far from it. I believe we are all presented with opportunities and it is our job to see them, and to take advantage of them – even if it isn’t 100% “safe”. However, that doesn’t chance the overwhelming sense of gratitude to where and who those opportunities arose from.

And because of that, when I stepped out of TRIA on 10/15/15 after finishing my final meeting there, I had a sense of “I thought I wanted this change, but do I really?!” I had to allow myself permission to feel sad, and nostalgic, and appreciative of all that the last 8.5 years had given me. But, as I knew deep down, even through that anxiety of this big ‘change’, this is exactly what I want and need. TRIA played a huge role in my life, and always will. I will also be grateful, and can not wait to give my time and attention to the Next Best Thing that comes along.

Advice? Allow yourself to have emotions. Allow yourself to push through things that you aren’t “100%” sure of. Be grateful for whatever you did learn, whether that was a lot, or a little. And be excited and confident, to move on!

Cheers,

Heidi

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