December 18, 2007

Our "REAL" Christmas Tree

So it has been very long while since I (Allison) have actually blogged. But I decided today would be the day I fill all ya'll in on our wonderful Christmas tree adventure this year. It all starts with a promise Jared made me last year about being able to have a "REAL" tree for our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. Jared Willis. Let me just tell you I have continually reminded Jared about this many, many times during the past year. In my mind (let me inform you it works like a child's most of the time) I was wondering where we would put our tree in the new house Jared was building. And I would ask Jared, with alot of excitement, where he thought the "REAL" tree would look the best. But we never really decided where the perfect place for our Christmas tree would be.

So on first weekend in December Jared fulfilled his promise! Jared, I and our friend Spring went to the Cambridge tree farm to pick out a "REAL" Christmas tree. I had a blast and thought all of the trees were wonderful, but Jared wouldn't settle for any average tree. So here is a picture of the tree we did cut down.

I think it was around 14' tall to begin with but we managed to convince Clark, I mean Jared, that we needed to trim it down to about 6' tall. And because Spring is such an amazing friend we found the perfect place for our "REAL" Christmas tree! Here is another picture of our beautiful Christmas tree decorated and resting safely at Spring's house. Hopefully next year we will have our own home to put our "REAL" Christmas tree but if not I'm sure Spring wouldn't mind loaning her house again.

November 3, 2007

one year ago...

it doesn't seem possibly, but it has already been one year since Allison and I became engaged. She could tell the story a little better, but here's my version of it...

I was sure Allison was the girl for me. I had a ring picked out, payed for and in my pocket the whole first week of November while i schemed a way to surprise my wonderful girlfriend. I enlisted the help of a trio of ladies very close to me to help execute my ingenious plan.

the plan was this. while allison and i sat through a horrendous cyclone football game, Samantha, Spring and Stacy would be beautifying the master bedroom of the house i was currently building. after the game, i would take allison out to eat and make up an excuse for having to go to the house where history would surely written.

We went out to eat at my fav pizza place, Ge Angelos. i think she even asked me why i was so "smiley." i don't remember much of the supper except for the part where i went into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and convinced myself i could play it cool.

i then said we needed to go stop by the house so i could look at something. when we arrived, i blindfolded allison and told her i had something special for her to see. i led her into the room where there was all sorts of christmas lights, a bench, a camera, and about 10 dozen roses. i don't remember much of the next few minutes other than taking off her blindfold, saying a bunch or semi-sweet, probably mostly ridiculous and incoherent ramblings, dropping to a knee and asking her to marry me. somewhere in the confusion, she said yes.

Happy 1 year Babe!!

Cyclone football

As you all know, I love going to cyclone games...the atmosphere, the fans, the band, the team (sometimes) and the free t-shirts. yes, free shirts. after touchdowns and during some breaks, t-shirts get shot out into the crowd for who ever can get to them the fastest. usually when i hear the loud pop of the launcher, my head looks up into the sky with hopes it may actually come my way. but with 50,000 people and like 9 shirts, the odds aren't in my favor...until today.

midway through the first quarter, ISU was leading and my eyes were focused on the mega-tron watching a replay or something, until i sensed something right by my face. yes, it turns out a shirt had been shot directly to me and the guy in front of me caught it right before it hit me in the head. i couldn't believe. i thought my day was ruined. the chance of a lifetime and i missed it.

in a strange twist of fate, i later heard the loud pop again and saw a shirt flying high above my head heading my way. it all happened in slow motion like an overly dramatic replay. slowly my eyes focused as i watched it spiral in a direct path to where i was standing. "no way this is heading my way. how long until i get shoved in the back and miss it again? will it fall short? can i make the catch" i thought as destiny began to reveal itself. i stuck my arms freezing cold arms out and made a perfect sideline catch. excitement spewed out from all those around as i raised my shirt in a statement of triumph. fittingly, my celebration was able to continue all game as my cyclones pulled out win number two. Go Clones!!

October 23, 2007

more house pictures

its been a little while since we've put up house pictures so here are a few updated shots. allison and i work a little on it every night and will soon have all the cabinets installed along with the cabinet hardware. if the rain holds off this weekend, i'm hoping i can be almost ready for sod by next week, but i may be dreaming a little. the siders should be done by the end of the weekend and the "stoners" might be here as early as the end of next week if i can convince them to hurry my way. inside, the trim carpenters should be almost done by the weekend.

grocery shopping

so allison and i had a great idea for a "date" last friday night....i dropped her off at hy-vee to start grocery shopping and i went and picked out a movie at a nearby store. (side note..when i think of grocery shopping, i still have the bachelor mindset of a thing of bananas, and pretty much everything else is either frozen, canned or falls under the chips category) well, when i got back, i figured she would be waiting on me since it took me awhile. nope. she was in isle 3 and had was busy searching out the deals. after literally filling the cart and checking out, i was devising a plan on how to only make one trip up to the third floor with all the groceries. we tried it and somehow made it. if you count, i think you would find 11 bags plus the milk in my arms. allison got the rest and we only had to make the one trip up the steps.

October 14, 2007

Pumpkin carving

Every year at River Valley Credit Union, the employees can enter a pumpkin carving contest. Last year, Allison and I entered a really cool "Cy" pumpkin which was way better than the competition, but ended up losing to two triangles and a mouth entry. It had to have been rigged.

So this year I had the Boston Red Sox emblem all sketched out, but after weighing the options of time and return on investment, we opted for a more simple approach. Here are our achievements the last two years....

October 10, 2007


This last Sunday our connection group had a "fun night," or whatever you want to call it where we played games and ate food and stuff like that. Part of the night consisted of a create-your-own ice cream flavor where we had to bring things with us to try and make the best tasting new ice cream. the judge was the eight year old daughter of one of the couples in our group.

Allison and I decided to make a peaches and brownie flavor that pretty much rocked. We won quite easily in my opinion. The best part was we won a 10 dollar gift certificate to Dairy Queen. Free Date!!

September 26, 2007

New Logo

As you may have heard, ISU is going to drastic measure to try and turn this season into something bigger than beating Iowa. Have you seen the new logos for all uniforms? Reminds me of the 80's, but hey, whatever it takes.

To see what the uniforms look like, click here.

September 23, 2007

Parents for a Day or Maybe Just an Afternoon

On Saturday Jared and I went to North Liberty to visit Jason, Brenda, and the kids. After a very entertaining example of how lunch time takes place with a two and four year old, Jared and I thought it would be fun to take Ally and Drew to the Children's Museum at the Sun Mall (aka Coral Ridge) and let Jason and Brenda get some things done around the house while the kids were gone. Let me first say I was throughly impressed with the museum. They had many different activity centers for children to play. Both kids were excited to be there and it was fun to watch them play and pretend at the different stations. It is really interesting how much they pick up and imitate their parents and other things they see adults doing. Here are some of the pictures Jared and I took.......
Above is Ally at the Construction Station building a house.
Below is Jared helping Drew build ???

Ally milking a cow like her Grandpa's
Drew checking out at the grocery store
By the end of all this fun I don't know who was more tired Drew or Jared? We all had fun though and the trip was a success. Oh and I can't forget to mention the hilarious comment by Ally on the way home as we drive by a Culvers....... "So, are we gonna stop at Culvers and get me a snack or what?" Jared and I both laughed pretty hard at that one.

September 21, 2007

Christmas in September?

I was in Lowe's this morning and they were setting out the Christmas trees and light displays. does that seem a little early to anyone else??

Also, if the cashiers know me by name, does that mean i'm there too much?

house update

Here are a couple more photos of the house. we will be insulating monday and tuesday and start sheetrocking wednesday hopefully. the garage floor and stoop got poured this morning.

September 15, 2007

cyclone state of mind

I love a good rivalry game. I love it even more when my cyclones win it. While the black and gold was busy racking up 40 or so yards of offense in the first half, ISU kept marching down the field, warming up Shaggy for the eventual game winner.

As i talked with my boss before the game, i said how it would be a good game, as long as it didn't come down to field goals... well, i was right on the good game part, but who would have thought isu would actually WIN a game because of their kicking.

I wish i could put into words the excitement of beating Iowa. Even though we have won 7 out of the last 10, it is still a great feeling every time that trophy returns to the hallowed halls of the Jacobsen Building. The excitement of that last second field goal, my heart stopping on that last kick-off return, (what were we thinking??) followed by the joy of thousands of fans pouring over the walls onto the field was such a fitting end to a great game.

I can't wait to hear the Hawkeye fans saying, " who cares, we won a lot in row 20 years ago."


September 9, 2007

Texas Trip

Last week at this time Allison and I were enjoying Labor Day weekend in Texas. We left Ames Friday about 12:30 or so and arrived at Erin and Jason's house about 1 in the morning. It was a long drive, but it was worth it. They recently moved into a house in Terrell, Texas (just east of Dallas) and have done a great job making the house a home. The previous owner had trashed the place so Erin and Jason had a lot of work to do to make it nice, and their efforts payed off.

We got to do a lot of fun things while we were there and also help out a little with some projects. The big project Jason and I worked on was building a trellis like structure in their yard for a nice shady area. I think it took longer to dig the holes than it did to actually build the thing. It turned out pretty decent though.

One day we enjoyed a trip into Dallas to eat some quality pizza at a fun little shop in downtown . We saw the area where JFK was shot. We rode a trolley and drank some good coffee.

One night we also went to a huge arboretum that had an orchestra playing and then showed a movie when the sun when down. Another night we ate outside by a lake in Rockwell and went to a movie.

Other highlights were having some time to relax, barbequeing with Jasons family, putting in a row of tile in their kitchen, meeting and playing with their puppy-Jean, seeing some awesome houses outside of dallas on big lots for incredibly cheap,playing some X-Box football, and being with family.

On our way back to Iowa on tuesday, we were able to stop by my relatives in Arkansas and got to visit with them and see the house they had completely gutted, added a second floor and have it almost ready to market.

One funny thing from the trip....Before we left Ames, i was telling Allison about this new country song i liked and was hoping to hear while we drove. Well, we were on the road for almost 24 hours total and never heard it. I kept talking about it and flipping stations trying to find it and Allison was beginning to doubt the song even existed.

The next morning i was driving to work (a three minute commute) and guess what song came on as i pulled out the driveway? yep. good grief.


Well, my prediction was half-right. UNI earned their 24 points and ISU just left to many missed opportunities on the field.

You won't hear any positives written about the game anywhere in the media, but there were some bright spots...1. ISU had more total yards of offense and averaged more yards per play than UNI. 2. Only one penalty...for only 5 yards. very impressive. 3. We still have Todd Blythe. It is inevitable he becomes the go-to guy again. I only remember 3 passes thrown his way yesterday. When the wide receivers get in sync with the quarterback, watch for lots of yards. 4. ISU got to or close to the red zone 3 times and failed to score. When those turnovers and botched plays stop happening and points go on the board, some swagger will come back to the offense. 5. Short fields gave UNI a big edge. Two turnovers in Iowa State territory gave UNI 10 easy points. 6. ISU D-Line continually got a good push on a O-line averaging about 315 pounds. the result was 3 sacks and lots of hits behind the line of scrimmage.

The best thing about the game though...the weather was beautiful!

And like some fans were saying as we left....we can still go 10-2. :-)

September 7, 2007


I believe the reason iowa state lost their opener was partly because i failed to make a public prediction on the outcome of the game. if that doesn't help this week, i'll turn to something else.

So my prediction is Iowa State 27, Northern Iowa 24.

Go Clones!

August 29, 2007

8 long months of waiting

Its finally here. Less than 24 hours to go before the Cyclone football season kicks off. Its that time of year where our national title dreams are still alive. Excitement is in the air for a new coach, new season, while hopes that "this is the year" are talked about by the most avid of fans and scoffed at by those with more sense.

It will be exciting to see a playbook consisting of more than the usual 4 plays, one that attacks defenses instead of always playing it safe, and one which will hopefully keep our punter from winning the MVP award at the end of the season.

"Oh we will fight, fight, fight for Iowa State,
and may her colors ever fly..
Yes we will fight with might for Iowa State,
with a will to do or die
Rah Rah Rah
Loyal sons forever true,
and we will fight the battle through,
and when we hit that line we'll HIT IT HARD
every yard for I-S-U!"

does it look like a house yet?

Well, its getting there. Who would have thought we would have about 7 inches of rain.... in August... in Iowa? The crew should be ready to crane roof trusses in the morning and hopefully inside subs will be able to start at the end of next week.

In the first couple pictures you can see Allison if you look closely. The final picture is from the window in the great room.

August 26, 2007

State Fair

Last weekend Allison and I made the annual trip to the state fair to see some sows, plows and cows. We saw a lot of really great looking projects in the 4-H building and Allison was amazed at how a judge could rank a bunch of noisy sheep that "all looked exactly the same." she was further amazed at his comment on the lamb that won when he said "she has tight shoulders that flirt into nice wide hips." i wonder what kind of romantic things this guy says to his wife at home.....

We spent a lot of the day with Jason and Brenda, Brenda's mom, dad and sister, and Ally and Drew. It was fun seeing the kids perspective on things and their excitement for everything.

Later that day we met up with Allison's mom and dad. We ate a great supper at the Pork tent and then went to the Switchfoot concert. They put on a pretty good show.

Other highlights were: big ice cream cones, delicious tenderloins, the big slide, mullets, tractors, the butter cow, and beautiful weather.

here's a couple of poor quality pictures...

August 13, 2007

house update

i thought i would show a little update on the house we are currently building. We just poured the basement slab last friday and started framing today. its been a little frustrating for me up to this point, but i anticipate it will get better and be more fun from now on. there have been some site issues and contractor delays along with some forecasts of rain that didn't pan out. i'm about 2 weeks behind where i wanted to be now, but i'm used to it; it tends to happen on jobsites for some reason.

the location is sits on a little pond in south ames and won't have any neighbors across the pond for a few years at least. we are excited to see our vision and planning take shape.

trip to deluth

awhile back we made a trip to deluth, MN for a long weekend to attend a wedding of allison's college friend dane. it was quite the trip...i'm not much of a planner, so i rely heavily on allison to remember all the details of what needs to happen. this wouldn't be a problem, but allison really isn't much of a planner either, so it makes for some interesting times.

we left right after work on a thursday and drove just to north of the twin cities for a night of camping. i was quite proud i had printed off all the maps of deluth, the campsite area and where our hotel was. my confidence was shattered when allison suddenly asks, "did you remember the invitation?" oops. we are almost to the MN border and we don't know where the wedding is, where the reception is, how to get to either one, or what time they start. i finally got the idea to call my boss, who happens to own the building where we live, get into our place and have him find the invitation and relay this valuable information to us. we had a lot of fun camping that night. here is allison with her work of art and our roaring fire...
when we got there friday, we drove along the north shore of lake superior and even waded out into it. the next day we drove around the more scenic parts of deluth and enjoyed seeing a bridge that went up and down, some old ship anchors and many other little odds and ends.

on our way back to iowa, we took the scenic route through wisconsin. we managed to hit several town celebrations, causing lots of slow moving traffic. one town was even hosting the Stihl lumberjacking competition. lots of verrry interesting people in that town.

it was a fun little mini vacation and it makes us look forward to our next mini vacation to dallas over labor day.

July 30, 2007

'Tis the season

If you are not from Ames, you may have no idea what this title may represent. If you are from Ames, you know all too well.

Blame it on poor planning, the university schedule or whatever you want, but every year at this time our city fills with U-Huals, horse trailers, golf car trailers, busses, pick ups, vans or whatever else could be used to move young people from apartment to apartment. You see, most apartment leases in Ames run from August 1st at noon, to July 31st at noon. That leaves the people who didn't plan, out on the street for a 24 hour period. That leaves all other apartment flippers to finagle a way to move in early or shack up with a friend.

This apartment flipping or "turnover" as we in the biz call it, it the biggest headache all year long. Everyone wants to be the person who can have special privleges or doesn't want to follow the rules of the lease they signed. In this 2 or 3 day period, apartments are congested with every moving vehicle type known to man fighting for that one prime spot right in front of the entry door.

To add to the circus, most rental companies require the carpets to be "professionally" cleaned when you move out, meaning cleaning company vans flock to the buildings to throw some cleaning solution on the carpet, suck it back up and then charge you 98 dollars.

The third group of people who descend on the city this week will be those looking to furnish their houses. People moving out will leave old furniture they don't want to move on the street, by the dumpster or anywhere where they can deny it is theirs. This means you can literally deck out your entire place in one afternoon, for no cost to you. If you are in the right place at the right time, you can actually score some pretty good stuff.

So as i look out my window and watch truck after truck drive by, some with traditional tie down straps, some with more brave mattress surfers, i smile, take a trip down memory lane and give thanks that i don't have to do that this year.


For the first 28 years of my life, i never had a problem with losing keys. That was before my wedding day. In case you haven't heard the story, here it is...

Allison's brother, Jason, drove Allison's car to the church that day. He handed me the keys and thats all I remember of the exchange. Awhile later Allison's dad asked for them to put some things in the car. It was quickly discovered no one could find them anywhere. I think 15 people dug through everything i brought to the church, my backpack, clothes, truck, everything. We didn't find them and ended up driving our photographers car to the reception.

Allison's dad agreed to make two keys for us while we were on our honeymoon and we would just leave the car at the church in the mean time. Well, the last night of the honeymoon, they showed up in my backpack. Yes, the same backpack everyone had looked through so many times.

While this is a kinda funny story, it more importantly introduces a new phase of forgetfulness in my life. Ever since that time, i have been quite paranoid about losing keys. About once a week, sometimes more, i'll begin to almost panic when i can't find my keys. half the time i find them 10 minutes later somewhere crazy or sometimes in my pocket.

Today i was sitting in my truck after work in the parking lot of our apartment....looking for my apartment keys. i was digging through everything looking for them. Then Allison pulled up beside me and i figured i'd just forget about it for now and she could let us in. as i shut the door to the truck, i locked it, KNOWING i had the truck key in my pocket. when we got upstairs, i found out i had the apartment keys in my pocket but no truck key. Yes, i had locked them in the truck...with the spare set.

Luckily i had left the window down about an inch or less, so i knew i could find a way to get in. As i stood there staring at my garage full of potential jimmys, i finally grabbed a tool i thought would work, walked to my truck and in 5 seconds had the door unlocked. the tool? a 25' Stanley Fat Max Tape measure i had gotten for our wedding.

The moral of the story? Always ask for my keys when you are with me.

July 10, 2007

Goodbye Weston House

As many or all of you know Jared has a passion and gift for building things and about a year ago he decided to put his abilities to the test. This test (as I guess what I'm calling it) was to build a house. Now don't take me too literally....he didn't grab a shove, hammer, nails, some wood and start throwing things together like a mad man. But he did spend time planning, organizing, and physically adding his sweat equity into the house. It became his hobby you might say....instead of fishing or golfing most men try to do in their free time my ambitious husband worked on his house. He spent weekends and evenings working there doing odds and ends. I got to help too! (Really that exclamation point is a good one) It was great to see the progress and Jared get excited about how things were all coming together. Here are just a few pictures of the process from the very beginning to the very end.

Cool Slideshows!

As you can tell by the last picture, we sold the house. It was Jared's goal to sell the house to a family who would benefit from the large, open, and inviting floor plan (side note "floor plan" is a new word in my vocabulary. never used it until I started dating Jared), which is exactly what happened. We closed on the house June 14th. The new owners are are both ISU alumni and they have two boys and a third on the way. They were also very excited and pleased with the extra detail work and time Jared put into the house. Jared and I are both happy to sell the house to such an appreciative family. Although he is glad to sell the house, Jared has mentioned that it is a bitter sweet transition. I am extremely thankful to God that he provided this opportunity for Jared and I feel even more thankful that Jared was able to enjoy and accomplish such an impressive project without any major set backs.

July 7, 2007

One year ago.....

It doesn't seem possible that a year ago at this time i was in Africa, waking up to 30 degree temps and working all day laying block at the ministry center. It makes me think a lot my time there and the people i met. My trip there was not only a time to see more parts of the world, but also to expand my knowledge of other cultures and learn about people who have very little but seem genuinely happy.

The team i went with from my church was gone about 2 weeks. We spent the first week doing construction work at the ministry center with local African pastors and the second week going to different schools and hospitals around Zambia sharing our faith and talking about our lives and why we were there.

The top photo is my friend Todd and I with some of our fellow workers. The middle is Edwin and I - he is a pastor in Zambia and a very hard worker. The bottom picture doesn't quite show the level of enthusiasm normally shown by the kids when a balloon came there way, but it has kids in it, so that makes it interesting.

June 28, 2007

End of an era?

Today i passed inspections on my final apartment building for the summer. There are no plans in the works to build any more for now anyway. I did some adding up a couple nights ago and totaled up the number of apartment units i have finished in the last 4 years with Jensen Design Build and the 1 year with Fore Property company and came up with 567 apartment units. That seem like a bunch, but even more so when you add in the church, bank, and commercial finishes i have run during that time.

It wouldn't surprise me if we do more in the future, but in the meantime, I'll be keeping busy with houses and more small commercial work.

Here are the last two 30-plexes we built.

June 26, 2007

Skiing at Saylorville

Allison and I had the opportunity to go water skiing last night at Saylorville Lake just north of Des Moines with our friends Chris and Tami. I've skiing 6 times or so and am fairly decent at it - meaning, i generally won't fall until i try something that really hurts when it doesn't go as planned. Allison, however, has never been on skis before and did a great job for her first time. After a few quick tumbles, she made it up and was able to ski for quite aways!

Here are a couple pics of us on the water.

June 20, 2007

Warm Milk Anyone?

Ok, so we all do silly and ridiculous things every once in a while. Well, at least I know I do......and so does Jared. Just last week we experienced one of those absent minded silly moments.

Most mornings Jared will get himself a bowl of cereal for breakfast and this particular morning was no different. Well not until I went to get myself some cereal and noticed the box of cereal still on the counter. So I pour some cereal into a bowl and go to put the cereal box away.......and there to my surprise (and Jared's) is the milk. All nicely tucked away amongst cereal boxes.

Needless to say Jared and I both got a good laugh about that one.

June 19, 2007

Honeymoon in Paradise

For those of you who are married, you know just how crazy a wedding day can be. I remember walking out the door of the sanctuary with my wife after pictures, stopping, turning around and asking, "Did that really just happen?" The day was filled with great fun and anticipation, and many things happened which will be laughed at for years to come.

Our first day of marriage began with snow coming down in Iowa and us catching a plane to Miami, where we had an overnight layover before the trip to St. Lucia, where we would spend the next four and a half days relaxing on the beach, by the pool, at the food tables, or wherever else we could find. The weather was hot and mostly sunny, but the waves were really high so we couldn't get out in the water.

Here are a few pictures of us as well as some of the St. Lucia countryside.

Cool Slideshows!

Cool Slideshows!

After so many days off, we were finally relaxed....only to have to wake up at 2:30 Iowa time and fly all day.

We had a really great honeymoon all in all. Then it was time for our life together to begin in the real world. :)