Monday, November 24, 2014

Weekend Review 35: Is this your daughter?

Friday night I finally got to see the move Gone Girl. I've been wanting to see it ever since I heard the book was going to be a movie, but trying to plan a girls night was proving to be impossible, so I got to have a date night at the movies.

Like most books turned movies, I liked the book more than the movie, but if I didn't read the book, or know what it was about, I'd say it was a pretty damn good movie.

Saturday I headed over to my parents house to take advantage of cable. The trashy reality tv Gods were looking out for me. As soon as I sat down and turned on the tv Real Housewives of Beverly Hills was on and that went right in to VanderPump Rules. Then I totally caved and flipped to the Hallmark Channel where I proceeded to watch every Christmas movie they had on. It was a very productive day. I also discovered that I could absolutely survive on a box of Ritz crackers, a log of summer sausage and a block of colby jack cheese. That might have been the only thing I ate for 24 hours. Not sure if I'm proud about that or not.

On Sunday I had my volleyball teams pot luck. It was the first time I got to meet all the girls and their parents...who thought I was a player. As the parents came in I would talk with them and as more parents came they would ask if I was the parents daughter who I was talking to. I will take that as a compliment, but I certainly don't think I look like a 16 year old Sophomore.

We had our pot luck at one of the players houses out in the country, and it was one of the most beautiful houses I've ever been in. Each girl brought a dish to share and we had everything from chili and sloppy joes to fruit and bunt cake.

It was more of an informational meeting for the parents. We went over our schedule for the year, goals, rules, etc. One of the most refreshing things was seeing all the girls get along. Especially since no two girls go to the same school.  Observing a few of them, I think my biggest challenge this year is going to be keeping them focused long enough to get through 2.5 hour practices. 16 year olds have a lot of energy!

For dinner I finally got to try 5-8 Club. I had been craving a good burger for over a week, so when the 5-8 Club was suggested I jumped at the chance to finally give their Juicy Lucy a try. I would love to do a side-by-side comparison with Matt's Bar because I remember their jucy lucy being pretty good as well. I will say that the 5-8 Club has some pretty damn good french fries though.

Have a happy, healthy, and filling Thankgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Weekend Review 34: Friends in Low Places

I'm just going to start out by saying I am completely brain dead today, so if nothing here makes sense, I apologize.

Saturday started nice and early with a spin class and some shopping. I need more winter friendly clothes and work attire, but every time I go in to a store I am so unmotivated. Everything is super trendy and just doesn't really fit with my no-fashion-sense type of style. I ended up getting a pair of jeans from H&M, and that was that.

The fella I've been seeing for the past month or so invited me to go with him and some of his friends to see Garth Brooks, so we headed downtown a few hours before the concert so we could get some food and a few pre concert drinks. That plan didn't go so well.

We were so hopeful taking our Uber downtown because the fair was normal and downtown traffic was nilch compared to UpTown. We walked in to Cowboy Jacks and bam! That place is packed. He puts his name down anyhow and we decided to just try another bar. Brothers, sorry, no tables. Glueks, not taking names. Masons, reservations are full all night, no walk-ins. So, Jimmy Johns it was. After we ate our subs we met up with his friends at Mission which was just far enough from the Target Center that they were able to get a table and we were able to have a drink before the concert.

We got to our seats just before 6:30 which is when we all thought the concert was supposed to start to find out it actually started at 7:30. We were straight back from the stage, on the other side of the arena and one row from the wall on the upper level. It wasn't as bad as it sounds. Since we were straight on we could see everything. The negative about being that far up is that there are less people getting in to the music. We were the only section that sat most of the show, until he played Friends in Low Places. I LOVE that song! After that we stood for the remainder of the show.

I could not believe how much energy Garth had throughout the whole show and knowing he still had another concert to do after ours was just insane. I'd like to have been at any of the other 10 shows he did to see if they were all so full of energy. But I guess when you can pack in 18,000 people per show  for 11 concerts in one city, you'd be pretty pumped to know that you are just that awesome too.

Sunday morning was a bit of a struggle. Since I knew I'd be completely useless if I stayed home, I headed over to mom and dads to at least get some quality Miley time in.

While at my parents we finally got to talk vacation and I'm so happy to say that I have a plane ticket booked to Cabo for mid February!

I've traveled with just my parents before and it was surprisingly better than I had expected. We travel the same and like to basically do nothing all day but sit on a nice warm beach and drink margs and beers before getting dressed for a fun dinner out on the town.

I'm going to have to start stocking up on books. My last Ali+Parents vacay I read 2.5 books in 1 week.

Said fella from above and I have been watching Law & Order SVU together so I headed over to his place so we could catch up on the 3 part mash up they did with Chicago Fire and Chicago PD. On my way home I forgot what kind of car I was driving and got stuck going over a solid wall of ice trying to park.

My car was stuck. Like really, really stuck. Like teetering on top of this stupid wall of icy snow stuck. I tried going back and forth and chipping away at the ice with my ice scraper before a couple people came out of the apartments and helped me free my car.

After a good 10 minutes of them pushing (45 minutes of me going back and forth and chipping ice), my car finally came free. It is the most frustrating thing to be stuck and not have a way to get out on your own. Once I got inside I signed up for contract parking 2 blocks away. This winter is going to be brutal and the last thing I need is to get stuck or towed. Where's global warming when you need it?

If you have any recommendations of good restaurants or fun activities in Cabo, please share them with me!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Weekend Review 33

As exhausted as I am on this very snowy Minnesota Monday, my weekend didn't really consist of too much, which is usually the way I like it. But I prefer it when I start my week feeling more refreshed.

Friday was pretty low key. I had a dinner guest and we had spaghetti and meatballs with homemade meatballs. He went back for seconds so I will call that a win. The rest of the night was spent chatting and catching up on Law & Order: SVU.

Saturday was flipped for Sunday's activities which meant I had leftover pizza for breakfast and I stayed in my PJ's until 5:00 only because I didn't think it would be appropriate attire for a bon fire.

I spent the evening at my cousins house since her and her new husband got a fire pit for their wedding and have been wanting to have people over to use it. We had a few drinks, they made some homemade Trader Joe's pizzas and we hung out outside in 30 degree temps because that's what us Minnesotans do.

Sunday was a doozy of a day. My coaching duties officially started with tryouts. The club I'm coaching for had its tryouts for the 15 & 16 teams. I'd estimate there were about 100 girls that came which meant finding the right team for each and every girl.

The girls were split, 15's on one side of the net, 16's on the other and we ran through drills to get an idea of each girls skill level. As we watched the girls we would move them to different courts based on their skill level. I was on the middle court which was tough, especially when you had to move a girl down. I've been there. We all know what the different courts mean.

When the first court coach gathered the girls she wanted on her team, it was my turn to pick my team. There are the girls that are just down right talented, then there are the girls that you saw improve through the day and you want to pick them because they just have something that made you like them. It was really tough not being able to pick everyone I wanted, and unfortunately tomorrow I'm going to have to tell some of the girls that they'll be moved down to the 16-3 team. At least we had a lot of girls that seem to be equal level so the 16-3 is like a 16-2 squared.

Oh, you might be wondering why I got to pick MY team. Why I  have to tell girls if they have to be moved down. Well that's because I am now the Head Coach. Terrified? Absolutely! Do I think I can do this? Absolutely!

Coaching is something I've always wanted to do, but I don't think many people will tell you I'm a leader. I'm much more comfortable as a follower. At the same time, if I'm put in to a situation I'm uncomfortable with or maybe not the most knowledgeable about, I will Google, study, research, etc. until I'm comfortable and confident.

I'm excited to tackle this new adventure, and who knows, maybe it'll open doors I never knew were there.

If you've ever coached anything before, please give me some tips!

Friday, November 7, 2014

You Can Call Me Coach

*Disclaimer: This is a stupid long post. If you want the gist of it, read the last couple paragraphs.

A long, long time ago I played volleyball competitively and I'll just come out and say it, I wasn't too bad.

As with most teenagers, they find their sport, instrument, hobby, what have you, and really hone in on that one thing. For me, at 14, it was volleyball. I played my first year of a Junior Olympics club team in 8th grade. It was the first year that the Maple Grove high school coaches wanted to start a club and I was their guinea pig. I gathered as many girls from the 8th grade Osseo Jr. High class to come and play and we just barely had enough girls to form a team. I can't remember if we were any good or not, but at 14 you are still growing in to your limbs and not quite sure how your body works. It was a fun experience, and it allowed me to pass playing for the junior high my freshman year because I was asked to practice with the JV team at the high school. Pretty rad for a Freshman.

Just after the volleyball season ended for high school my Freshman year, my family moved to Mequon, WI. We actually lived in a hotel for a week so my older sister could finish conference play before moving. We spent many nights peppering in the 'ol Maple Grove Hampton Inn parking lot.

When we arrived in Mequon we found a local club to play for called G-Force. It was a step up from the Maple Grove club team, but we were still kind of the bottom of the barrel club. I will admit, my skills were way ahead of my understanding of the game, so coming in to a new club and doing drills I had never heard of, kind of kept me back and I don't remember getting a whole lot of playing time. All the girls on the team went to the same high school and I was the new girl who just didn't feel like she fit in. To say this was my least favorite volleyball experience would be an understatement. I learned a lot though and was able to bring my new found skills with me back to Maple Grove when we moved back just after my Freshman year.

Now at 16 I'm officially a JV team member at Maple Grove Sr. High and occasionally get to practice with the Varsity team. This allowed me a lot of one-on-one time with different coaches. I can't tell you how many balls I hit standing on a box while a coach tossed them up to me so I could get my arm swing just so (this has now resulted in uneven hips). I tried out for a legit club this year and made the 17-2 Club Tonka team. This was very serious compared to the other clubs I played for. You got full uniforms, warm-ups and shoes. We traveled, to Iowa, and to nationals in California. This is the year I found my stride. I was an outside hitter. There were other girls from my high school on my team. I was more confident in my skills and maybe even a little cocky at times. I was louder on the court. And most importantly, I understood the game. The plays. The positions.

#8 Outside hitter
Early that summer my team headed out to California for nationals. We flew in to San Francisco, drove up to UC Davis where all the girls stayed in the dorms for the week while the tournament took place at the Sacramento Convention Center. There was a HUGE opening ceremony that was Olympic proportions to my young mind. Each team was announced as they walked in to the arena to loud music, a light show and we exchanged gifts with another team from Hawaii who gave us shell necklaces (I can't recall what our gift was).  The opening ceremony concluded with a USA volleyball match. We did pretty well until we had a day off and went to Lake Tahoe. Here's 10 Minnesota girls laying on a beach, looking up at snow covered mountains thinking we don't need suntan lotion. So many of us burned so bad that we could hardly move the last day of play-offs. Our coach was not too pleased.

This is the summer I remember the letters starting to come from all over the US. Maybe I'm exaggerating a tad, but I was getting a couple letters every month or so from small schools, mostly on the East coast. This was very new to me and at 16 and a Sophomore in high school, I was way more concerned about friends and cute boys butts than I was thinking about going to college to play volleyball.

Oh, young, naive Ali. If only you knew what you know now. Your life would be so so different.

Junior year came and went. I made the Varsity team, but due to high school politics I wasn't a hitter. I was the utility player which meant I played every position and basically just filled in when necessary. I did not like this. I was born to jump and make kills. Unfortunately most of my Junior year high school career was spent in the back row serving 100% perfect games and getting ace after ace. It was great, but it bored me. I loved the intensity of the front line. Making a block, digging a ball out of the net, going up with all your might just to tip the ball right on the other side of the blockers. That's what I played the game for.

Because I was old for my grade, I always played a year up. At 17 I played on an 18's team. I made the 18-2 M1 team. To put in to perspective how good this club is, every single girl on the 18-1 team played D1 volleyball. Quite a few of them played for the U of M, which was so fun to watch. At the time M1 was cream of the crop. King of the hill. It was the club to play for, heck I'm sure it's still one of the top in the country. When we practiced, we matched. When we traveled, we matched. When we ate, we ate together. Practice was 3 times a week with tournaments practically every weekend. We were good. I remember one game against M1 18-1 team we had a long rally going and I went up for a block and stuffed a girl who was a high school rival, but one of the best in the country. Literally. She even played with team USA after her career as a Gopher. But to show you how nice she is, she told me 'good job' and not in a snarky way either.  That's the game I love and miss. Unfortunately I couldn't handle this schedule on top of my school work and had to drop the team before the season ended.

I didn't play my Senior year of high school due to mono, which lead to tons of rumors as to why I wasn't playing and how I got mono, the kissing disease. At this time in my life I had only kissed one boy man and his name was Emilio and he was the pool activities director at the Copacabana in Acapulco. It was over my Junior year Christmas break at the club Palladium.

Acapulco - Copacabana Hotel
From that point on my volleyball career only consisted of subbing for friends teams or bar league sand volleyball.

Until now!

This week I met with the owner of Club Tonka. That team that I had a ton of fun playing for. He offered me any team I wanted, even a head coach gig. Since I have never coached before, my confidence level isn't very high right now, so I accepted the assistant coach for their 16-2 team. Coaching has always been at the back of my mind, I just never searched it out. But when you walk in to a gym and are greeted with a hug after nearly 15 years, you know you've made the right decision.

I'm excited for the age level too because this is the year those girls will be finding their stride and I really hope that, as a coach, I can make this the most fun year in their volleyball career. One that they'll look back on and have fond memories of, like I do during my time with the club.

Plus, I'm super stoked to have a coaches jersey!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Old Orchard Mixers

*This is a sponsored post from Old Orchard but all opinions are 100% my own.

Now that Halloween has come and gone, I'm already craving Christmas. The decorations, the music and movies, the smell, and dare I say it, the snow!

But before we fully jump into all things winter and Christmas lets take a trip to the tropics with Old Orchards new mixers in Pina Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri and Margarita!

Simply put a lime in the coconut and drink it all up blend the mix with ice and water for virgin drinks or my favorite, tequila for non virgin, when making a margarita.

Margarita's are surprisingly hard to get right if you ask me. I often find them too salty or too sugary. When I made my margarita I added  ice, a can water, 1/2 can tequila and blended. I was pleasantly surprised with the taste. Unlike most margarita mixes this one was not too syrupy or sugary. It was slightly salty, but not overwhelmingly so. If I had a lime on hand it really would have finished off the margarita perfectly.

Since I didn't have a lime, I went with the next best thing. Quesadillas!

This brought me back to sitting on a beach in Mexico, sipping a blended margarita while digging my toes in the sand. I'll probably have to whip these up again once the snow starts flying to bring me back to that warm, tropical place.

Believe it or not, that's a pineapple margarita. Nuevo Vallarta
You can find Old Orchards mixers at select Wal-Marts in the freezer section next to the frozen juice concentrates. I suggest calling a head of time since they seem to be selling out quite quick at the moment.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Weekend Review 32

It had been a couple weekends since I was up to the cabin, so with nothing going on in the cities I headed up after work on Friday night to enjoy the Fall weather.

Since it was Halloween there was no traffic which is unheard of for a Friday. We did our typical dinner at Jed's and spent the rest of the night at the neighbors fire. When it finally got too cold we headed inside for some beer pong. I need to play more often because I'm really not that good. Like, at all.

Saturday was a struggle. I woke up with my Red's swirling in my stomach. When you feel like that sometimes you just have to get it out if you want to rally and make it through another day. After a failed attempt at eating breakfast I went back to bed for a few hours and finally showed my face after noon.

There is nothing better than walking outside and being greeted by a group of people all hollering 'Ali!' 'She's alive!!'

Mom and dad were across the street so I headed over and what do I do? I sit down with the folks and another cold Red's. Hair of the dog ya'll.  That basically started and ended my day. Once again, we headed to the neighbors for a fire. Dad had just replaced a door that started as the original door to the cabin, so I finally got the honor of burning an old piece of the place.

Twas a pretty door she was.

After the door, mom and I rolled over the largest log to ever grace the fire pit (or not).

We joined the neighbors for dinner before I snuck back to the cabin so I could warm up and cuddle with Miss Miley. Miley, Trixie and I got in some serious cuddle time when we fell asleep through the news and SNL.

Thanks to good ol daylight savings I was home by 9:30 am which left plenty of time to go to the grocery store, make some soup, watch the Vikings WIN! and eat a gourmet dinner before heading over to a friends for a movie night.

Gourmet dinner
We talked about doing a scary movie so we settled on The Purge: Anarchy. I kept seeing previews for it but it never connected that it was a sequel to The Purge. The second one was a bit more disturbing mainly because of the face paint and masks. Let's just say my senses were on high alert when I went home and couldn't get a parking spot right outside my door.

Good news is I'm sitting here writing this so no creepy dudes in masks/face paint shot me on my way home. Hooray!