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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Drew's 2014 Christmas Letter

 
I really hate to start off this year’s Christmas letter with bad news, but due its magnitude, I simply must. Even now, as I attempt to write this letter, I can feel my blood run cold and my hands begin to tremble.  But after countless hours of therapy, I now understand that the first step to healing is to talk about it with the people you love and trust. So to all of you, my family, friends and loved ones, I confide in you this most horrid news with the hopes that you can help me to regain my trust in humanity. Brace yourself now. My Christmas list has been hacked.

At first glance, it appeared as if the cyber-criminals that were responsible for the Target Store credit card scanner data leak were the culprits behind this grievous crime. However, further investigation showed signs that the original point of infiltration originated from within the borders of North Korea. Whatever the case, it was obvious that these devilish cyber-thugs were attempting to use my Xmas list to undermine the fundamental meaning of this most glorious and holy of holidays– which, as everyone knows, is that I receive hundreds of ultra-expensive gifts. Using highly advanced cyber-trickery, my Xmas list was being hijacked and filled with things like throw pillows and fancy sheets rather than snowboards and skis. Sixty-inch TVs and video games were replaced with hand towels and new plates. Even as I mourned over the idea that Santa would never get my request for a new Fat Tire Bike, I was struck with an even harder blow. My inside contact at the CIA Cyber-Terrorism Division uncovered a code within the deepest layers of the matrix that traced back to an address in Duluth, MN – the very address we just recently moved to. Then it hit me like a sack full of naughty-kid coal. This was an inside job from the very beginning. Amanda was the hacker.

What could possibly motivate a person to do such a thing? To dedicate 5 years of her life getting close to her victim just to fill a poor boy’s Xmas list with girly knickknacks? Perhaps it was her desire to furnish the new home in Duluth we have purchased and will be moving into in January. True, this new home is much larger than the condo we owned in St. Paul and will require more furniture. It is also close to Lake Superior, which Amanda hopes will attract many visitors to fill the spare rooms. And of course, with visitors comes the need for fancy new bed sheets and hand towels.

Or perhaps Amanda was just overly tired from the stress of starting a new job and accidently added stuff to my Xmas list rather than her own? After all, her new job at the Maurices Corporate Headquarters as a real estate analyst does require using massive amounts of brainpower. She helps to determine where new stores should be built by analyzing more data than I knew existed. Maybe, just maybe, her eyes were all loopy after looking at all those spreadsheets and she just didn’t realize she was editing MY list.      

Or was it that she thought that since I’m working as a sheet metal worker I’d be so tired and cold after a long day outside that she took it upon herself to ask Santa on my behalf for decorative throw pillows on which to rest my weary head.

Amanda’s true motivation will forever remain a mystery. Whatever the case, the holidays are a time for peace and goodwill to all, and so, with that spirit in mind, Amanda has been pardoned of her holiday hijinks, with only one stipulation: She has to add a new Fat Tire Bike to HER Christmas list next year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Please come visit us at our new home 2323 Boland Drive, Duluth MN, 55804. I’ll be more than happy to share my plush new hand towels with you. 

 

Sincerely,

Drew, Amanda, and Loki  

 


Friday, November 7, 2014

Moving North!

Well, I guess this blog might need a new name. Farm Girl in the Far North? Farm Girl on the North Shore? Today is Drew's last day in the office. Below is the email he sent to our coworkers.

To all my dear PropTax friends (and others),


I have had many significant, life-altering things happen to me during my life. But I was either too young or too dumb to recognize them as being significant at the time. I guess I must be getting old, and perhaps my brain has finally developed beyond the adolescent stage, because this is the first time in my life that I remember actually stopping to take the time to think about a decision and how it will impact my life going forward. And I don’t like it one bit.
 

This stopping and thinking about stuff is really hard. Because now I have to think about how I am going to miss everyone here so much. And I have to remember all the great things that this division does, and all of the acts of generosity and kindness that I have witnessed here every day over the last 7 years.  I have to think about if this is the right choice; to say goodbye to something that has given me so much and to the people that have become like family. Will I ever find a place like this again? Will I ever find someone to hire me again? What the heck am I going to do with my life!

 

So I am done thinking about it. I will leave the thinking to the philosophers and those really deep, introspective poet-types. Instead, I am just going to do what I have always done: savor the past, enjoy the present, and let the future bring what it will. I’m not worried about it. It’s like my good buddy Danny Kaye said,  “Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.”  And that’s what I’m going to do, start splashing paint like I’m Jackson Pollock. Happiness to me is an ever-changing horizon, the thrill of going around that corner and not knowing what is on the other side, and those butterflies in your stomach the moment you drop off into the unknown. And so I’m going to venture down the road and let all those unknown bumps and curves shape who I am. To what end, only time will tell.

 
So that’s it. This is goodbye for now. I am so thankful for what everyone has done for me, and what they will continue to do for this great state. I was lucky to be part of it. I wish everyone the best in everything that they do. If you find yourself in Duluth, look us up and come hang out. We’ll go jump in the big lake. It’s totally rejuvenating, trust me. Bon voyage!

 
What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

This is the super cool photo the Department took of me to accompany any articles I submitted to assessment magazines.

Angela and I in front of the state seal, the state flag and the American flag on one of the biggest days of the year for my division (State Board of Equalization).

I will miss the close proximity to the Capitol. I've enjoyed many lunches on the Capitol Mall and was able to head over to the lawn the day the Marriage Equality Amendment passed. Minnesota is awesome, and I am proud to have been part of the public policy process in some small way.
 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

TBT: Butterheads old and new


One week from today the gates to the Great Minnesota Get-Together will open wide. Today is also Throwback Thursday. What a great day to talk about the state fair, and more specifically, butterheads past and present.

Growing up, my Dad offered to pay us $5 for every calf we successfully trained. At the time, I thought he was funding our state fair dreams. In retrospect, I think he greatly valued the amount of time we spent towing uncooperative calves around the yard “training” them, and as such, leaving Dad to work in peace.

For country kids, the fair was, and remains, a very big deal. The fair is the one week all summer parents allow, and even encourage, their children to spend time at the fair with their 4-H pals. Of course, a good deal of work is required to keep their animals well cared for at the fair, but there are plenty of opportunities for rides, malts, and hijinx as well.

For a dairy farmer’s daughter, the only dream that exceeds a Grand Champion Ribbon at the State Fair, is the opportunity to serve as Princess Kay of the Milky Way. To be eligible to represent the dairy industry as Princess Kay, you must work on an active dairy farm. Each county sends three young women to compete at the state level. Some counties have more than three contestants at the county level; however, the county must narrow it down to three candidates to send to the statewide competition. Of the 261 eligible candidates, only 12 finalists are selected to represent the dairy industry at the state fair. The 12 finalists compete for the title Princess Kay of the Milky Way. They are judged in 7 categories: etiquette, mock media interview, panel interview, extemporaneous remarks, panel interview, speaking ability, writing ability, and a one-on-one interview.

Bonnie, my older sister, was a finalist for Princess Kay in 2001. All 12 finalists have their likeness sculpted into a 90-pound block of Grade-A butter. The process takes 6-8 hours in a 40 degree, revolving room. It is a must-see at the fair.

Bonnie: Butterhead ’01

I was lucky enough to be a finalist in 2006. I was not selected as Princess Kay, but I did receive an ice cream cone charm made of Swarovski crystal, which is basically the next best thing, am I right?

Amanda: Butterhead ‘06



For three blissful years, the butter avatars coexisted in a freezer in my parent’s basement. Yes, my parents actually bought an extra freezer to store all 180 pounds of buttery goodness.

I had big plans for our butterheads. It was a long-term plan. Very long-term. I wanted to save our butterheads just in case my younger sisters followed in our footsteps and brought home their very own malleable statues. When Bonnie was crowned in 2001, our youngest sister Katrina was only two years old. As I said, long-term. Anyway, my big idea was to put all four butterheads together- a Mount Rushmore of sorts. For good measure, I thought we could put Santa hats on the heads and send out the most epic Christmas Card of all time! It would read, "Hope you have a Dairy Good Year!"

But alas, my sisters did not share my dream. More importantly, my parents did not support the idea of purchasing another freezer to warehouse butterheads. So the day after Bonnie's wedding in 2009 we had a giant corn feed and butter Bonnie bit the dust. In 2012, I followed suit the day after our wedding. I was not happy about it.


While it may be too late to create a Mount Thoemore Christmas Card, my younger sister McCayla is a finalist for Princess Kay this year. We are all so thrilled and excited to see her pursue this childhood dream. Princess Kay will be crowned next Wednesday, the night before the State Fair opens. Regardless of the coutcome, McCayla will always be my little Dairy Princess! XOXO Sista!
 
 



McCayla Thoe: Butterhead Coming 2014

 
 
 


 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Drew's 2013 Christmas Letter


The day was November 9, almost three full weeks before the Thanksgiving Holiday even took place, when I opened up the trunk of our car and discovered it was crammed full of Christmas decorations. I thought to myself, “surely Amanda plans on storing these decorations in here until after Thanksgiving.” I discovered how wrong I was moments later when my dear wife, with a look of holiday-induced fanaticism on her face, anxiously informed me that we had to hurry up and get the decorations up post-haste and while I’m at it I better get started on our annual Christmas letter. “Geez” I thought to myself, “how can I start our Xmas letter when there are still practically two months left until Xmas and a lot could happen between now and then –  like I could get a motorcycle and take it on a cross-country trip to Seattle where I would trade it for a small sailing skiff which I would use to sail across the ocean to Tahiti where I would trade it for a surfboard and become famous for surfing the biggest wave ever.” I was about to express these concerns to Amanda when I looked into her big beautiful blue eyes and became acutely aware that if her eyes could speak they would say something along the lines of, “I dare you to argue with me, chump.” “Yes dear, I’ll get started right away” I said. You learn a lot in your first year of marriage.

 

And it has been a great first year. First and foremost, Amanda graduated and received her Master’s degree in Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota. Her program was very grueling and stressful and when it was completed we not only celebrated her great accomplishment, but the fact that she would be able to live a normal life again. I wish I was able to tell you more about what she studied, but the extent of my knowledge concerning the intricacies of applied economics is that it involves some impossible form of mathematics brought to Earth by space-aliens in an attempt to make our puny human heads explode.

 

While Amanda was advancing her career opportunities by becoming more educated, I was trying to strike it rich with a new business venture I learned about on the backstreets of St. Paul. It’s called Pedal Cabbing (or bike taxis if you prefer). Basically, I ride a bike with a giant bench seat around town and try to pick up people that are too inebriated to walk. The “striking it rich” part hasn’t quite come to fruition like one would imagine it would, but it has been good exercise and entertaining to say the least.

 

We also got a new dog named after the Norse god of mischief, Loki. So far he has lived up to his name. His favorite game is stealthily breaking into our closet to steal our socks. I don’t appreciate this game as much as he does because I am already perpetually suffering from a severe shortage of socks. Our dog trainer told us to put hot-sauce on the socks in an attempt to deter this behavior, but I don’t like this either because the hot sauce burns my feet. I think the secret is to not wear the socks.

 

We also did a bit of traveling this year. Most notable would be our trip to Nova Scotia. Why Nova Scotia you ask? Well, we saw it on the cover of a magazine once and it looked nice. What other reason do you need, really? It turned out to be a great trip. We kayaked through uncomfortably large swells in the Bay of Fundy and camped in secluded coves right on the ocean; we boiled fresh lobster in the very saltwater from whence it came; we went whale-watching on a Zodiac raft that went 10,000 nautical miles-per-hour and when the maniacal captain wasn’t doing his best to launch us out of the raft we got so close to the whales that I could have dropped a marble right down their blowhole; we had a close encounter with a giant bull moose; and we met amazingly nice people who were more than eager to invite complete strangers (us) to their homes to help ourselves to their woodpile. In the end, we did not want to bid farewell to Nova Scotia.

 

There was also a little trip down to Charleston, South Carolina with our younger sister, McCayla. We took the trip because Amanda can do space-alien math and some other smart people wanted to hear her speak about smart stuff at a big conference for smart people down there. While Amanda was hanging out with those nerds, McCayla and I hit up the beaches. The first day on the beach I did some surfing and some sun burning. McCayla did some tanning and some laughing at my freakishly red skin. The following days McCayla continued to do some tanning while I hid from the sun underneath fishing piers like some grotesque ghoul muttering in the shadows about how much I loathed everyone with bronze skin. When Amanda was done with the conference we all had a good time paddle-boarding with dolphins, playing in the waves, touring a “haunted” Civil War era prison, and generally enjoying Charleston’s old-south charm.    

 

We did some other stuff too, but I won’t bore you with those details. Okay, maybe just a little. The Alaskan Imes’ made their way down to the Lower 48, so we enjoyed time spent with them. We were also blessed with a new nephew, Lane. He is a real cool dude, but I will let his folks, Bonnie and TJ, tell you more about him. What else? Oh yes, we started a book club in which we meet with friends to have very loud, ultra-dorky conversations about the books we read. As for the future, I will be coaching a snowboard team again this winter and Amanda will continue to rock out in her new band, Adults on Bikes. We still work together at the Minnesota Department of Revenue because we just can’t get enough of each other. Who knows, maybe I can even convince her to jump on the back of that motorcycle with me. We’ll be in Tahiti in no time.

 

---Merry Christmas to you and all your loved ones Drew and Amanda Imes

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Perfect Christmas Tree II

Footage from our second-annual Christmas Tree Quest with the Austin Family!

Here's the link: The Perfect Christmas Tree II

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. All you have to do is show up in some elastic wasted pants, eat until you physically feel ill and enjoy the company of family and friends. That is, unless you are hosting.

This was the second year I “hosted” Thanksgiving. I’m using quotes here because this year we were at my Mom and Dad’s house, so I co-hosted with my mom this year. My primary responsibility was to take care of the meal essentials (turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing etc) and my mom took care of everything else. (My mom is pretty awesome like that.)

My favorite part of hosting is decorating the table. It’s the time of year you can really whip out all the things from your wedding registry and put them to good use!

Last year, I went a little crazy and carved out dozens of tiny pumpkins and turned them into candles. It made for very romantic lighting but was also a major fire hazard.



This year, my mom and I had a great time mixing and matching her place settings with some things from my house. We used two table cloths from Grandma Luker. We used my mom’s china and silver place settings with my chargers. The mix of new with old was a little different but somehow still worked.

I was extremely lucky last year and somehow, the timing of everything worked out perfectly so I naively thought, “wow, hosting Thanksgiving is such a cinch! I can definitely do that again!” This year, things didn’t go quite so smoothly. I over-roasted the garlic (see: burned) and dumped it into the mashed potatoes anyway. As they say, a little garlic goes a long way, but I forgot that little piece of advice so the potatoes were very-very-garlicky. As in, none of us need to worry about vampires for a few months. The stuffing turned out great- all four varieties! Once again, I went a little overboard on the stuffing… but everyone likes leftovers so no problems there. I drove 45 miles one way to pick up these rolls from my favorite place, Omar's Café in West Concord, MN. Totally, completely worth every mile.... mmmm....


Both years I’ve used the brine recipe from Pioneer Woman (basically bay leaves, rosemary, apple cider, garlic, brown sugar, pepper and orange rind).  After I pull the bird out of the brine, I lather it up with a mixture of soft butter, rosemary, sage and thyme. The real key is to lather the bird under the skin. Both years this has made for a very moist and delicious bird! I probably left it in for a bit too long this year, but it was still yummy. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t great. Guests arrived but I wasn’t ready for about half an hour. The mashed potatoes had cooled a bit and the turkey didn’t have ample time to cool before we carved it. I guess the timing is one of those elusive things that sometimes you are able to nail and other years you totally botch.

All-in-all I just want to reflect on the new appreciation I have for the people in my life that have hosted countless holiday meals without a flaw. Candace Ryan and Jim Luker stand out where hosting is concerned. They somehow manage to make you feel completely at home the whole time they were slaving away in the kitchen without ever exhibiting even the slightest sign of stress. Of course my parents and grandparents have also pulled off parties for more than 40 guests year after year.  I think you cannot fully appreciate a good host until you’ve attempted to host yourself.  So thanks again for all those past parties people!

Here is a cool picture of the amazing apron my mom made me as a hostess gift! (Also my adorable nephew Lane and my sister Bonnie!)

 

Unfortunately, I do not have the same grace as the hosts listed above. It is safe to say that I definitely show signs of stress and anxiety throughout the entire process. This year, my dad and Bonnie helped me remove the turkey from the brine, lather it in butter, insert the stuffing and place in the roaster. My dad kept telling me to relax and at one point Bonnie told a story that I completely ignored and my dad suggested I work on my listening skills. “This is NOT the time to relax or to listen to stories, if anyone should be listening, you should be listening to my instructions!” I retorted! (See, I’m a hostzilla, a turkey monster!) I apologized and everyone forgave me because deep-down they sort of knew I was half-right. Later my grandma even took my side, saying that getting the turkey into the oven on time is not a good time to relax.

I am pretty pumped to be ‘into the fold’ or ‘in the big leagues’ or a quasi-real-adult- however you want to say it. I guess I’m a grown up now and I think it’s pretty awesome and fun.  Roasting turkeys, setting tables and getting jazzed up about things like a perfect pie crust. 

One last pic of my slightly burned turkey just for fun! Now... on to xmas!

 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lefse- A Norwegian Family Tradition


On Sunday the women of the Thoe family gathered to practice the time-honored tradition of making lefse.

Our great-aunts have been making lefse for family gatherings, the church bizarre and smörgåsbords for years. When we put together the lefse party, we didn’t realize that my great-aunt Martha’s lefse is something of a legend, and her recipe a well-kept family secret.

I headed to Grandma’s house on Saturday night to boil and rice the potatoes. Grandma filled me in on Martha’s prowess in the art of Scandinavian culinary delights. I then suggested that we could use our lefse at the family thanksgiving, but Grandma didn’t know if our lefse would be suitable to serve guests. I started to sense that I was in over my head…  

We all gathered the next day, added the flour and started rolling balls. The aunts started to discuss the going-rate of lefse over the years. They figured $1.25 was the current rate for a package of 3 lefse rolls, but they also acknowledged that really good lefse could go for $1 apiece. After our first few attempts, Connie remarked, “Well you wouldn’t get a dollar for that one!”

It was a really wonderful day, and Michelle and I have high hopes that someday soon we will be able to make lefse suitable to serve to guests!

Bonnie made an awesome video of the day, you can watch it here: Lefse- A Norwegian Family Tradition

Thanks Grandma, Loretta, Connie & Martha for such a great day! xo