Sunday, August 23, 2009

Trip to Minnesota

We flew into Fargo, ND and got a rental car (2009 Mazda 6) to go to Bagley, MN. The drive was very picturesque on back roads through the Detroit Lakes area and it really reminded me of Sweden. It explains why all those Scandinavians settled there.

We visited the Tamarack wildlife refuge and saw a few birds and a few chipmunks. I guess it really wasn't the season to be spotting wildlife, but regardless, it was a nice day spent together. We listened to some really good NPR programming and had very interesting discussions about it. It's just great to be together again.

In the evening we finally arrived in Bagley. First impression from inside the car: It's small. First impression from outside the car: It smells like cows. That being said, it was a cute little town with the bare necessities. There was Hanks Hardware, the SuperValu, Jennifer's Hardware, Daroo's Pizza, Subs & Mexican (the local international food place), DairyLand (the local ice cream shop) and last but not least, the Dutch Mill Motel & Video (which also offers in sun tans, not furs). There were several other establishments, but I can probably count them on my fingers.

The motel was very clean, but very old and probably doesn't feature in the Travel Channel's best hotels list. But we learned they are the cheapest motel in northern Minnesota and that was good enough for us. We weren't planning on spending much time in the room anyways.

The following day, we went to Itasca State Park, which is where the mighty Mississippi begins its journey to the Gulf of Mexico. It begins in Itasca Lake and meanders north and east before actually turning south. Very interesting and quite a nice park to visit. Just make sure to bring bug spray aka. "Minnesota cologne," because the mosquitoes are relentless.

Later in the evening we went to Sam and Nathaniel's wedding which featured the funniest preacher I've ever seen, a Model A Ford, some of the best finger food I've ever had and more family and friends than I could count. It was a lot of fun and the reception, although segregated, was a total hit once the dancing began. I also was surprised by the amount of singing that took place. I've never been to a wedding where the guests get up and sing songs to the bride and groom.

Wedding lasted until about midnight which worked well for us because we had to get up early and drive back to Fargo. Once in Fargo we grabbed some breakfast at the Atomic Cafe and attempted to make our way to the airport. This was very difficult because all the roads were closed off for the air show. Lucky for us, we were there early and were able to watch the show for an hour or two prior to having to get on our plane.

We flew together to Chicago and then had to go our separate ways. Yet another weekend that was way too short but well worth the trip. We want to go back to Minnesota to go bicycling with Sam and take in some more of the natural beauty up there.

Pictures will follow as soon as Amber has some time to post them. (It's Blitz week now and it may take a while).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Florin 4 - Chipmunks 0

Recently I have noticed numerous holes in the ground on all sides of the house. Nothing real major, just significant enough to attract my attention. I sat still on the deck one day for an extended period of time and noticed chipmunks moving around in the yard. Friday I finally got around to buying a trap. I was going to use the less-than-humane, drowning in a bucket technique but I opted for catch-and-release. I would resort to the bucket trick if the store-bought trap wouldn't work or if it turned out that I had a massive infestation on my hands.

Friday night I set the trap with some bird seed I bought at ACE Hardware and a few crab apples from the yard. I left the trap overnight and nothing happened. Then I got the idea of trying some cheese (which was old and had started to turn green). I figured it would smell nice and strong and attract some attention. Within a few hours, I caught my first chipmunk. I drove out into the corn fields and released the little bugger. As you can see in the picture, they're very cute and cuddly. Unfortunately, they are also very destructive and very good at procreating. Best to get rid of them before they become a problem.

I repeated the procedure but this time with peanut butter. This seemed to work even better. By mid day I had caught 3 chipmunks in three areas around the house where the holes had appeared. I was feeling pretty good about myself!

After catching each chipmunk, I went and covered up all the holes around where I captured each respective chipmunk. This way, if the burrow is still inhabited, I'll know because the access holes get reopened. That's how I'll know if I got them all or not.

After having released my third chipmunk, I returned home and heard a noise from one of the down spouts from the gutters near where I'd seen activity before. I went straight there and set the trap at the end of the downspout without any bait. Then I proceeded to shake and rattle the downspout until a confused chipmunk with his mouth full of bird seed came running out and straight into the trap. Thus I captured 2 chipmunks within 10 minutes of each other. After releasing this one too, I haven't had any more activity. However I'll keep setting the trap for another day or so just to be safe.

All in all I'd say I'm glad I spent the $25 for a trap that I think has already paid for itself after one day of hunting.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Engagement ring

Per multiple requests, I'm posting a few pictures of the actual ring I got Amber. Hope you enjoy it as much as we (and especially Amber) do.

To the left you can see the Tacori ring with the two Sapphires on either side of the diamond. I thought having all diamonds would be really boring and unimaginative, so I opted for two classy blue stones to help make the center stone pop.

Here's a shot that better shows the two bands that are intertwined all the way around. I'm sure that's supposed to symbolize something, but I can't think of what it might be...

And here's the ring on my lovely lady's hand. I picked Tacori because it is a designer that emigrated to the US from Romania. He now has set up shop in California. I though it was a nice symbolic tie between my heritage and Amber's.

Another shot of the ring on Amber's hand. I've actually had this ring picked out for almost 9 months now. Due to the uncertain job situation, the house purchase and everything else that's been going on, I've had to hold off until now. I'm glad I did because the timing feels perfect.

And now for the mandatory glamor shot. Enjoy!


"Dr. Florin M. Marcu and Amber D. Evans are officially engaged!"

I'm so happy and excited. Words cannot explain the intense elation and ecstasy I feel regarding this latest development. While all other things in life have already been fantastically amazing (degrees, jobs, house, etc.) this surpasses them all. I always knew Florin and I would always be together and although marriage never did decide that kind of commitment for either of us, it's still a girlish delight to have been asked to be a lifelong soul mate of the one man I love. Plus, "the ring is real, real purty." :D

My love and heart always belongs to my "Flori" and always will. Thank you, baby, for making my dreams (in every way) come true. Life is so much better since you've entered my life and I know it will only just get better!

Love, Amber

Monday, August 3, 2009

Degrees Awarded!

Well, we've both cleared degrees this academic year!

I (finally) received my Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology from Chico State:

and Florin was awarded his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech:

Yay! Success!