Sunday, January 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad!

My dad's birthday was this past week. Happy Birthday, Dad!

I've spent most of my weekend off staying in the hospital with a friend who had major back surgery, but I did break away a few times to see my family, including a dinner at our favorite steakhouse, Mancini's, in St. Paul. This is one of my dad's favorite restaurants and since we've been talking about eating there for a while, it seemed fitting for his birthday.

Now, if you've ever met my dad, you could attest to the fact that he's a pretty quiet, gentle man who wouldn't want to draw attention to himself. This picture looks like the exact opposite! Let me explain...

This week is the St. Paul Winter Carnival, which is the nations oldest and largest winter festival. It started back in 1886 and has been a huge St. Paul tradition since then. There are lots of aspects to the carnival, including a royal court and almost an anti-court. There is a "good" king -King of the Winds, and also an "enemy" of the carnival -the Fire King, Volcanus Rex. There is the Queen of the Northlands, and also Klondike Kate. Well, the picture of my dad was taken at Mancini's when we were joined by the Vulcans and all the Klondike Kate's of years past. Two of them came over and helped deliver a birthday cake and sang for my dad! He was a good sport about it!

If you ever have the chance to eat at Mancini's, go for it! You might have to wait a while, but the amazing steak and fun atmosphere is worth it! And, if you can be there during the Winter Carnival, you might be in for an exciting evening!

I decided not to leave you with just that picture of my dad for his birthday, but thought I'd throw in a few other favorites...

I really do have the best dad in the world! He's the most patient person I know, he'd do anything for anyone (proven time and time again), he's smart, has a funny sense of humor (it often comes out when you least expect it!), and loves his family more than anything. Thanks, Dad, for being an amazing example of what a husband and father should be!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Videos of David

Check out my Mom and Dad's link on the side for some new videos of David, including one of him walking pretty well. He doesn't quite always remember to bend his knees, but I'm sure that will come soon! You have to turn your head sideways for one of the videos, but it's worth it to this Auntie!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Big Snowflakes

We're expecting 6-9 inches of the white stuff today.

The view from my little deck.

I went to bed this morning with a few small snowflakes falling gently from the sky. I woke up this afternoon with the big fluffy flakes coming down heavily! I was actually going to go to Rochester tonight to meet a friend from Fergus who's now working at St. Mary's Hospital. I was really looking forward to it!

Well, it turns out that the interstate was closed here in La Crosse because of a huge pileup due to the slippery roads. Around 2pm there was one car that slid around and another 20 cars that ended up in the pileup! Wow! Fortunately the news reported only person was sent to the hospital. This all happened right at my exit, so of course I'm thankful that I wasn't right there trying to leave!

And, since dinner can be rescheduled for next week, I think I'll stay home and watch a movie until I have to work at 11pm. Cozy!

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Here's what I saw in my car when I got off work bright and early this morning.

Yes, that's right, -10 degrees. Brrrr!!!!! And that was just the actual temperature, the wind chill made it feel even colder! Yuk! Is winter almost over yet? It turns out I might be more of a mild-weather person. It was great to get home and crawl between my flannel sheets and under my down comforter and sleep the day away!

By the way, please notice this car picture was taken when the speedometer clearly shows I was stopped! :) You can also see my new baby now has 8800 miles on it already! And to think, I bought her with just 47 miles... My how the time flies!

Friday, January 18, 2008


Today I didn't explore quite as much of La Crosse as I thought I might, but thanks to Christine, I checked out Riverside Park. It was beautiful at dusk! It turns out that this picture is blurry too, and I realized that I was shaking as I snapped it. It's COLD out! Too cold to wander around and I couldn't find parking today...

I also had to get back in time to meet some new friends for dinner! Yes, that's right, I think I've made a friend! :) At Bethany Church the first Sunday I was here, the woman sitting behind me introduced herself to me after the service and we got to talking for awhile. She's about my age and it turns out that she and her husband had just moved to La Crosse about 5 months ago. We exchanged phone numbers and yesterday I decided to just call and see if they wanted to join me somewhere for dinner. They did! We ended up going to Piggy's ( which is a great smokehouse here in downtown La Crosse and enjoyed some great food and conversation! People at work thought I was a little crazy to just call up these strangers and want to eat dinner together, but I'm glad I trusted my instinct that they were fun and normal people!

The fact that they were stopping by was also good motivation to clean my apartment a little. I thought I'd share what the living room and kitchen look like now that I'm more settled.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Exploring La Crosse

On Tuesday I drove back from Minneapolis in time to start my shift at 7pm. I got to drive during sunset, and was reminded that Midwest sunsets really are the best! There's something about the whole sky being lit up in a rainbow of colors that's pretty amazing!

In this picture, you have to ignore the fact that it's blurry, and just see what I got to appreciate through my side mirror.

I finally rounded a corner and could see the rainbow sky through my side mirror. This picture is also a little blurry, but that's because the road was bumpy and no matter how much I wanted a great picture, I really was concentrating on driving! I took this picture at 5:14, my favorite time on the clock! [Since I was born on May 14th, I feel like 5:14 is God's little gift to me each day!] This was a nice gift that day!

Since it's mostly been cloudy or foggy while I've lived in La Crosse, it was fun to drive into the city and actually see a little of it!

Today I got to see a little more of La Crosse! I worked a few 12-hour shifts so today was the first chance I've really had to drive around. We've been in a winter storm that's given us lots of snow, but I knew my 4-wheel drive could handle exploring things a little! It turns out that it's a little warmer here than some winters I've been through, which is great, but that also means wetter snow -and thick slush!

Before it got dark, I snapped this picture of my apartment complex. It's taken from the backside of the complex, on the sidewalk leading down to the river and the beach. My apartment is the bottom patio on the left.

Then, I just turned my body and snapped this one of the river. It's a little hard to tell because of all the white, but the area slopes down to a beach that is directly on the river. I've learned that La Crosse actually has three rivers that go through it, the Mississippi, the Black, and the La Crosse Rivers. I am living on the Black River, and the houses that you see across the river are on a little peninsula (or maybe it's an island?) that has the Mississippi River on the other side. I haven't quite found the La Crosse River yet, but I'm guessing I've driven on a bridge over it and didn't even realize it! Ever since I got my Garmin I haven't spent time looking at maps. I know I've been missing out because of that!

After walking down by the beach, I headed out into the snowdrifts (La Crosse doesn't plow quite as much as other cities I've lived in...) towards downtown. Last night at work my co-workers and I flipped through some of the tourist brochures I've picked up. My first stop my new favorite shop in La Crosse, "The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor and Confectionery". I'm all about ice cream being okay at any time of year, but it really was a little too cold for ice cream today. So, I picked up a couple of truffles that were AMAZING! If you ever come visit La Crosse, I'd recommend this incredible 1930's-era shop!

After this, I decided to just drive around a bit and was able to see some great old homes on State Street, I found the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus, and I accidently headed out past Onalaska towards Sparta. That's when I headed back into town and went to mecca = Target. I was on a mission for some new brown socks, and knew just the place to go... This Target is set up exactly like the Target in Fergus (except for the aisle where the picture frames are located) so needless to say, it was easy to just wander around for an hour pretending I had a home again. It's my cheap therapy -wandering around dreaming of all the different ways to decorate a home.

Tomorrow I'm planning on getting to actually go into some local shops. Since I had to sleep a little today, I didn't get out in time before most of the downtown shops closed. It turns out that working 10 out of 11 days in a row means I'll need to make the most of my time exploring!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

First Step!

It's official, David took his first step today! I'm in the Twin Cities for the weekend and was around to witness it! Well, not the first one, but something like the 5th or 6th... He's mostly taking one step at a time, but every once in a while had two or three in a row. Then, he'll lose his balance, drop to the ground, and get where he needs to go by crawling instead. I didn't get a video yet, because it never lasted too long, and I was too busy clapping for him! I'm guessing in another two weeks when I'm home again, he'll have a lot more confidence in it! By the way, for all you Twin Cities residents, I'll plan on being home every other weekend (from this weekend) until the end of my contract in La Crosse... just in case there are any fun get-togethers coming up!!

Here are some of the fun pictures from tonight.

Standing up any chance he has.

A red cheek is his sign of teething.

Playing with my slipper (which really started to tickle!).

Buddies for life.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Life in La Crosse

I'm curled up on the couch in my new apartment, sitting here with a cup of tea, music on in the background, and my friends on the computer in front of me. I thought I'd share a little of my life so far here in La Crosse. Grab your own cup of tea and enjoy the tour!

On Saturday we loaded up my car and my parent's pickup truck. Since we had plenty of space to just throw stuff in, it didn't take long at all. In fact, I wanted to be on the road by 9:00 am and I was pulling out of the driveway at 9:02 am. Pretty good in my world! It took about two hours and 10 minutes and I was getting off on the exit for my apartment. The drive to Rochester is one I've done before, but from Rochester to La Crosse is a stretch of road I've only done once, in the dark, a few years ago. It had quite the view! Many people have told me about the bluffs I'd see in La Crosse, and that translates into lots of big hills leading down to the Mississippi River. Coming from the mountains and Puget Sound, it was a nice reminder!

My apartment complex hasn't been quite what I thought it would be, in that it feels pretty old. But, as the days have gone on and I've become settled in, it's starting to feel like home. This complex furnishes their apartments with more than just the basic furniture, but I also brought a lot of my own stuff since it was easy to do that.

This picture is taken from the front door, and I snapped it even before moving things in so all of what you see was here when I arrived. I've added some prints I bought at Pike Place over the couch.

By the TV looking back towards the kitchen. It now looks more settled in with my own kitchen things around.

The door on the left is my bedroom, and straight ahead is the bathroom.

My bedroom. I don't like the bedroom set as much as the one in WA, but the bed's comfortable.

The bathroom is smaller than in WA, but I like it more since it has a much better set up and lots more storage.

On Saturday I was able to get mostly settled in, and also drove around a little. I only went a mile or so in each direction, and to be honest, wasn't really sure what I had gotten myself into! Now, though, I can see that I just happen to live in an older part of town, known as North La Crosse, that has a lot of businesses and not many shops or restaurants.

On Sunday morning I went to Bethany Evangelical Free Church. I had looked around online to see what church might be the best fit for me and I narrowed it down to two options. Then, after calling my friend Eric Uggerud who used to live here, picked one! I was happy to hear him say that either of my two options were places he felt comfortable and was really blessed by the one he said to try first. You can find their website at This was one of the most friendly churches I've ever been to, I really enjoyed the worship and the sermon, and was so in awe at how God met me there that morning. Thank you, Lord! After being a little discouraged on Saturday, I left church on Sunday morning and couldn't get the huge smile off my face. I was REALLY blessed at church! I'm not sure how often I'll be there on Sunday's, as I plan on going home during my weekends off, but this church is maybe even reason enough to stick around on a weekend! I'm really looking forward to getting involved with a Bible Study, and those are starting up again in another few weeks.

After church I was able to drive around a little more and was happy to find lots of good restaurants, shops, and staples like Target, Kohl's and Old Navy. I also went to the hospital to make sure I could find the right place on Monday morning. I had such a good feeling about work even from those few minutes!

On Monday morning I had my first shift, and it went GREAT! People were extremly helpful and friendly. The hospital seems to have the same philosophy of patient care that I do, and there's something about a midwest work ethic that I really enjoy. It's only been a few days at work so far, but I think this is going to be a great fit for me. Yea!

After work I drove around and found a huge nature reserve right across the river (which happens to be in MN). I also found La Crosse's historic downtown and wandered into a terrific antique store. I spent over an hour there, fell in love with lots of stuff but only spent $3.00!

I know this sounds weird, but I was even blessed at the grocery store on Tuesday! People were genuinely friendly there as well! It was fun to realize how much I think I'll like living here!

Hoped you enjoyed the little tour of La Crosse. I'll be sure to share some more pictures of the town once I remember to bring my camera along and take them!

Friday, January 4, 2008

On The Road Again...

Hi everyone! Just a quick post to say that I'll be moving into my apartment in LaCrosse tomorrow. My mom really wants to see the set-up so she and my dad are going to drive along and help me settle in. Since they have a pickup truck, I have lots of extra space for this drive, which translates to "I don't have to pack well at all". Yippee!! I'm trying to get everything together tonight, then in the morning we'll just throw it all in my car and their truck, then head out on the road again. This time it's only going to take just over two hours to reach my destination! Yeah!!

I'm supposed to have high-speed wireless right at my apartment, so I plan on posting pictures soon and letting you know all about LaCrosse. Goodbye until then!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Yummy Malts

David made us laugh a lot today! Since my mom's so short, she has a lot of random stepstools around the house. David figured out that he can walk behind the kitchen stepstool easily, since it doesn't have wheels, so it doesn't get away from him. He entertained himself for a quite a while pushing this thing all around the house, even getting himself out from corners. Seems he's learned to steer it!

Getting going...

The corner he'd back himself into. But, he was smart enough to get on the other side of it and push it back to me.

He'd only last a second, though, and then he was off and running again!

Showing off the two teeth he has, both on the bottom.

My Swanson grandparents used to own a corner "Mom and Pop" store. We always heard it called "the dairy store" but it was a local corner shop that sold milk, all sorts of other groceries, and had a soda fountain. They lived above the store when my dad was born, and he tells stories of the rows and rows of candy bars, jars of candy on the counter, and the little boy's dream of living so close to all of that. Well, my dad has long been a great malt-maker, but when we were kids, the malts were made with a regular blender. Ever since we sold my Grandma's house, though, one of my dad's dreams came true... He got the old stand mixer! Since my Aunt Barb is pretty easy-going, I don't think she fought him too hard for it (hee, hee!). Even though the temperature hovered around zero today, it seemed like a good day for a malt! Remember, it's never too cold for ice cream!

The old stand with a new mixing container (there's probably a word for it, but I don't know what it is...) and the sundae dishes my mom picked up.

The malt-making professional.

The yummy finished product! Mmmm....

David getting his first taste of one of Grandpa's malts.

Even though he's not really smiling in this picture, he really liked it! He kept going for more and more, and you can see the drip on his shirt and the ice cream around his lips! We've got another one hooked!

Thanks, Dad, for the treat!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

I want to wish each of you a Happy New Year! May God richly bless this next year for you. I'm looking forward to seeing what God has in store, I think it will be one of the best years yet!