Sunday, September 28, 2014

Everybody Needs A Little Time Away

Photo Dump Ahead

Did you miss me? You probably didn't even know I was away with me being the sporadic blogger I have been as of late. That's okay. Let me catch you up on our few days away last week.

First, I must say that it was a most beautiful time to be away. Even with our little trip happening only due to the fact that poor Reed had a conference out of town, it was a good time indeed. The bonus for us is that we can take the time as a family to go away and be with him when his schedule allows. Thank you, homeschooling.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we headed out of town on Lily's 12th birthday.

A quick snapshot before everyone was dressed and ready to go.

We were all packed up and ready to head out on the road to Duluth, MN by 8:30 am. If you have ever been to Duluth, you'd know why it's one of our favorite spots. EVER. I've spent many a vacation there throughout my life and Reed and I spent our honeymoon there too. While it's simple, in-state and not exotic by any means, it's just a few hours from home and has always been intriguing for our family visits. 

Conveniently, my grandma lives in a city that we pass through on the way to Duluth. A quick visit was in order as it only seems right, but also because she and Lily share birthdays. We had to let the birthday gals spend a little time together and take a photo or two.

After arriving in Duluth and getting settled in, we dropped Reed off at his afternoon meeting. The kids and I then hit the waterpark for a bit before drying off and finding out all the other cool attractions at our hotel.

We then headed down to where Reed's meeting was being held and met up with him for supper. 

It was the birthday girl's choice where she wanted to eat. 

She chose an exciting place, which is a revolving (slowly) restaurant atop one of Duluth's tallest buildings. It was a meal that was out of our ordinary "plain" Midwestern tastes, but it wasn't too bad. We mainly went for the experience and the memories. The outer ring part of the restaurant revolves slowly while you enjoy the exquisite views. In our time there, roughly 1 1/4 hours, we were able to make one full rotation, to the delight of the birthday girl. 

To add to the adventure of our trip, my parents ended up joining us for one overnight and day. It was planned so that they could enjoy the one full day with the kids and I (ahem, and help relieve mom a bit), while Reed was in classes/meetings that day.

We awoke Monday morning to weather. In Duluth, at the end of September, it is almost unheard of. To plan a trip at that time of year, you seriously could be freezing your little hinders off. No lie. We've been up there in September and worn winter coats! We were blessed with this glorious, 70 degree weather every day we were there. Some of the best weather we've ever experienced in Duluth, especially since a lot of times you get caught in a lot of wind coming off Lake Superior. 

We enjoyed time down in Canal Park walking along the boardwalk, enjoying the views, watching ships far off, searching for agates and throwing rocks in Lake Superior.

Relaxing and Peaceful.

This was created by Jonah, the artistic and creative one. He asked specifically that it be showcased on my blog. I (heart) Jesus.

Sweet boy.

Precious moments and time just enjoying. *bliss*

We spent the rest of the morning walking, playing at the playground, and a having a picnic lunch.

Then we headed to a place I had never been in all our visits, Enger Tower Park.  I cannot believe we've never found this spot. My parents found it earlier in the summer when they were up in Duluth visiting and wanted to share it with us. 

The little girls fell asleep on our drive to the park, so my mom stayed back and hung out with them in the van. The big kids took the adventure up the trail to the tower with my dad and I. 

We climbed up the nearly 100 stairs to the very top of the tower and beheld scenes like this:

With the autumn leaves turning and the blue sky, it was the best time to see the beauty.

Looking at the famous aerial lift bridge in Canal Park.

The park also has some nice gardens and walking trails high up on the hill as well.

And many more breathtaking scenes to behold.

The following day we were just the kids and I again in the morning. We had planned our "splurge" destination while in Duluth for the Great Lakes Aquarium.  (We ended up not spending as much on admission, thanks to our hotel having discounted tickets for us. Score!) We also used it as our "school"/field trip as well. Before the aquarium opened, we headed back to enjoy Canal Park and hang out for a bit in the morning. 

Every trip we are in Duluth, we make a point to consult the ship schedule so that we catch at least one ship coming in or going out. It's kind of a tradition and one of our favorite parts of the trip.

The ship schedule usually has a window of anywhere from 1-3 hours of when a ship may be departing or coming in. If you hit it right, you could catch one. If not, you may have to hang out a while until you do. Ships do not come and go every day. It just depends on what's being loaded and unloaded, if they are on time, etc. 

That morning, we happened to be at the right place and heard the lift bridge announcement before it begins to lift. We were going to see a ship!

This one was coming out and was nearly 1,000 feet. 

Afterward, we drove just a little ways to hit the aquarium when it opened. We were some of the only patrons in there that morning and it was ideal. As we looked at the many exhibits, one corner faced the harbor where the ships dock and load/unload.  It also had an observation deck outside that we stepped out on to see the view. 

To our delight, another ship was beginning to make it's journey out of the harbor toward the lift bridge. 

It was a great vantage point to see the 1,004 foot ship head out. We also had a few other people on the deck with us as we watched. One of the guys who volunteers at the aquarium is from Duluth and very knowledgeable about the ships. The longest ship that comes in to Duluth is 1.013 and this specific one we saw is the second largest. Pretty cool, huh?

Inside the aquarium, they even have a ship simulation. Here the kids can pretend to steer the ship while also seeing and hearing all that a ship captain would when he is in command of a ship. 

That afternoon, we had a picnic lunch with Reed before doing more walking and sightseeing. 

We made an effort to find another place we'd never been, Lester Park. With more trails to adventure on, a playground and more rocks and water to splash in, it was another hit. Again, with warm weather, it made the fun even more enjoyable.

It was a great few days away. We had many things to fill our days, down time in the waterpark, and oodles of free things to explore within a short driving distance. We didn't even hit some of the bigger things like Gooseberry Falls or Split Rock Lighthouse. Those will be for another time, perhaps when the kids are just a bit bigger and daddy can be with us the whole time. 

It was a good time, a very good time, to be away. To reconnect, enjoy, cherish and have fun.

As always, it was good to get back to home and routine.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Weekend Scenes {Autumn}


While we're gearing up for 60 and 70 degree days this week, last week we felt the autumn chill. The crisp air, the cooler mornings, the return to school and the dwindling garden are reminders that fall has arrived.

Our weekend was one of embracing the season, family time and celebrating. Just the way we like it.

Friday evening we went to a Fall Kickoff event with the (new) homeschool group we joined mid-year last year. We attended one or two group events last spring, but not much. The kids have had some interactions with some members of the group as there is some overlap in the members also being in the same 4H group they are in. We planned that intentionally when we joined.

I must say here that Friday evening was a blessing and what I needed. I was quite apprehensive prior to the event on Friday. I just didn't know how I'd/we'd fit in, if it was going to be like our past group and how/if we'd find a new home in this group. We all agreed as we drove home that night that it had been a good time. Each one of us felt welcomed, invited, wanted. From the moment we stepped out of our vehicle, in the line waiting for food, running around in the yard, or just sitting around with the moms, we were introduced, people talked to us and they made us feel needed there. If you have ever been in a group (not just a homeschooling one) that has been less than friendly and you'e struggled to fit in, you know where I'm coming from.

With that, again I'll say that Friday evening was the perfect way to start our very nice weekend.


On Saturday we had plans to have my parents over as a pre-birthday celebration for Lily. Her birthday isn't until next Sunday, but we'll be busy Saturday and heading out of town on her birthday.

The biggest plan on the agenda was a huge right of passage, if you will. Lily was going to get her ears pierced. *yikes* She'd been talking and asking about it for months and we kept pushing it off. During the summer we decided that we'd move up the age limit we once talked about (13) and consider them when she was 12. Being that we'll be leaving to go out of town, we moved it up to this past weekend so it fit our plans better.

Just as I went to get mine pierced (I think I was 13) with my maternal grandma, Lily wanted my mom to join us for the big event.

She handled it really well and hardly flinched. I was pretty concerned since Lily isn't real pain tolerant. She was a tough cookie. She looked pretty nervous as the lady was getting everything ready and she was acting like she was fine. Being her mom though, I knew that the almost constant jiber-jabber from my girl was her way of keeping her mind off of what was about to happen.

Afterward she said it wasn't that bad and she survived. Hooray!

Once we heading back home, we enjoyed homemade pizza with my parents for supper. Lily's choice instead of cake (she doesn't like frosting) was homemade apple pie. Hubby was kind enough to clear his afternoon to whip up the pizza and the apple pie. Delicious.

As always, a visit with Papa and Grams always puts smiles on our faces. It was a very good day and a very special day. Man, I cannot believe Lily is almost TWELVE. I feel old now.


Sunday we declared family hiking day and headed out just after Mass and brunch. We drove close to 40 minutes away to Inspiration Peak, the highest point in Minnesota. It's a beautiful view at the top and a woodsy journey up there.

At the top, you can see for miles. My camera just can't do it justice. In another week or two the fall colors would be just glorious to view from the peak.

The kids enjoy the downhill descent, but little ones need a hand to hold on to with it being so steep.

Our next stop was a State Park about 20 minutes away. Even making the miles to trek there is beautiful this time of year. Taking in the scenery and all your eyes can survey when your heart is being grateful, really takes your breath away.

We had been to this particular State Park last fall with friends and our kids had a blast. We knew we needed to get there again this year. We hit the wooded trails and probably meandered through at least a couple miles worth of bountiful trees with acorns popping beneath our feet as we made each step.

The autumn air wasn't too chilly and the sunlight peaking through the trees above made for the perfect fall scene.

And photos.

The crew, giving into mom's need for lots of photos to remember our day together. 

All smiles as we finish out the weekend.

I hope your autumn weekend was a wonderful one, wherever you are in the autumn spectrum.

Tonight I sip on pumpkin spice cappuccino while huddled on the couch in my fuzzy robe. 

Tomorrow we hit the books again and plan ahead for some time away and more birthday celebrating next week. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Easy Blueberry Cake

Or Streusel if you prefer.

Another Pinterest goody that I wanted to share.

While recently filing through recipes in an effort to come up with something that didn't have either of my two favorite ingredients:

Chocolate chips or Peanut Butter,

I found this blueberry cake recipe. 

With just enough time to whip this up, I've now even made it twice. Yes, it's that easy. The first time was just for us and the second was on Labor Day when we visited a family. It was a hit both times! 

You can also find the recipe with far better looking photos over here.

2 cups Flour
1 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Butter or Margarine (room temp)

Mix with pastry blender until well blended, but crumbly.

Put 1 1/4 cups aside to use later for topping.

To the original mix, add the following:

2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 Egg, beaten with fork in measuring cup, then filled to 1 cup with Buttermilk

Mix baking powder and soda into dry ingredients of original mix.

Then add egg and buttermilk.

Spread into a greased (10" round, 9x9 or 9x13) pan.

Sprinkle with 2 cups Blueberries and the crumb mixture, squeezing crumbs a bit as you drop them on top by handfuls.

Bake in upper part of your oven, at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes.

Cool or serve with ice cream or whipped topping (like I did).


Monday, September 8, 2014

Girl With Scissors

Alternately titled "It Was Bound To Happen."

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

The other week my toddlers both held the small safety scissors during school time for the very first time. Impressed by their new found tool, Gianna especially, spent some time cutting away at scraps of paper. As a mother/teacher would, I explained the safety rules of scissors, how they should only be used while adults are present and we only use them for cutting paper.

I neglected the part about 'stay out of your older sister's room where you may find a stray scissors on her desk on any given day as she's always busy crafting.' 

Fast forward, a couple days later.

It was Saturday and I was in the bathroom getting ready for my day when I hear the 3 yo tromping up the stairs. She burst in and with a chipperness declared:

"I wanted my hair to be just like Elsa's!" (we later figured out that she meant Anna's)

My heart sunk as I spun her around and found this:

Well, she kinda looks like Anna...

I mean, she's got the side swept bangs thing going on. Sorta.

And still, I don't think there's been a whole lot of remorse on her part as she swings around her shortened mullet.

I've kept it as-is even though I was tempted to give the rest of her hair a shorter bob cut. For now, my solution is pulling it back as often as I can and pray that it grows quickly.

She likes it because now she thinks she looks like Wildstyle:

Oh boy.

On the flip side, she now as her Halloween costume all decided based on her hair.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Taking the idea of Thursday Thoughts from Billie Jo because she's always full of inspiration over at her place.

Thinking About...

Gratitude: A 7 day Facebook Gratitude challenge turned into an enlightening week. When I was open to seeing things to be thankful for, even the smallest of daily tasks or events turned into inspiration.

I found that coming up with three things a day was quite easy. It's so obvious to find so many things and people to be grateful for each day. In turn, I also found reading what others put on their list fun to read and a joy to share the gratitude with them.

I think this is a challenge I want to keep up on. My latest thought was to keep a Gratitude Journal and daily list 2 or 3 items of gratitude. It will keep me grateful, but also serve as a reminder of the daily simplicity and God's blessings in my life. I know, it's not a new concept that an attitude of gratitude is a good idea, but somehow for me right now it seems like the perfect idea to keep in perspective.

Socialization: You know that's everyone's greatest fear when you tell them you homeschool. "What about socialization??" I'm finding now as the kids are getting older that I need to be more aware of it and set out to be socialized. We're still struggling here with a couple homeschool groups we've been a part of in our areas. One of them, the people dropped off the face of the earth and did just about nothing for group activities the last two years. The other group we just joined last year, but still haven't found our fit there. 

I don't want my kids to be the socially awkward children. I want them to be comfortable and confident with other kids and in groups. Believe it or not, homeschool groups still have cliques that are tough to break. Being that we live where we do, it's tough for me to make the effort in the middle of winter to drive many miles to make these social connections. Being an introvert who enjoys days at home, it moves me out of my comfort zone to be social in a group where I am not at ease. It makes it even more important to do that for the opportunities it will bring my kids. 

As we settle into our new school year, I'm trying to be intentional about getting things on the calendar like field trips and outings to get my kids out and about. I know it will be a good thing to work harder at this to make it happen, but it sure is going to require me to stretch a bit too.

Happy Thursday, my friends!

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