Hauntingly Beautiful Nebraska

Driving down desolate highways, surrounded on both side by rolling hills carpeted with yellow from the wild sunflowers that grow there. Northwest Nebraska has a sort of surreal loneliness about it. You have simultaneous feelings of being nowhere and being somewhere at the same time. It’s beautiful.

The first night of our trip found us in Valentine, Nebraska. We expected it would be a great starting point for our Western Nebraska road trip due to its geographical location to what we had planned to see. What we didn’t expect, was that we’d find an oasis in the Sand hills. In most towns with a population less than 3,000 people, you wouldn’t find a thriving craft brewery. Mostly because the bars and restaurants found there get their beer from those big named, super bowl commercial spending, manufacturers of piss in a can or bottle if you prefer. And that’s all they offer, since that is what their demographic likes. Bolo Beer Company, beer born and brewed on the American frontier, is a refreshing sight for sore eyes looking for good beer in desolate places. It’s a great place to hang out. The building itself looks like a giant shed meant for fixing farm equipment, but upon entering find a large open space with comfortable chairs and nice people. Their astro-turf covered backyard was an added bonus. The area is surrounded by a high fence and has multiple yard games, a fire pit and picnic tables.

Our first official stop on our Nebraska road trip felt like we stumbled upon a hidden treasure. Smith Falls, the tallest waterfall in the State of Nebraska at 63 feet, is a hidden gem found not far from the Niobrara River. Smith Falls State Park is located about 12 miles outside of Valentine, Nebraska. Getting to the falls requires a minimal amount of hiking that most of the general public should have no problem with. A quick climb down some stairs, a walk across an open field, take the bridge over the Niobrara River, walk across another open area and up onto a wooden pathway and you’re there! The walk was actually very beautiful, especially at 8:00 in the morning. The campers were all still in their tents, so we had the place to ourselves. Walking across the bridge over the Niobrara was magical. On one side, the sun was rising over the river and on the other a deer was crossing the river. Breathtaking. Smith Falls is spring fed and the water is cool, crystal clear and very beautiful. We ended up spending more time there than we had originally planned.

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Bridge over Niobrara River.

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Smith Falls State Park, Nebraska.

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Cool spring water is very refreshing. Smith Falls State Park, Nebraska.

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Smith Falls State Park

Our next stop on our trip across the prairie was a kooky little place called Carhenge. An exact replica of that stone circle across the pond, Carhenge is made of, you guessed it, cars. Jim Reinders and a number of family members built Carhenge in 1987 as a memorial to his late father. The structure is not something you would expect to see driving through this part of Nebraska, but it is a fun and crazy little pit stop. There are picnic tables and a small visitor center/gift shop as well.  Although we were unable to summon the alien architects from the center of the circle, we were still grateful for the experience.

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Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska

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Carhenge, Alliance Nebraska

After leaving Carhenge, we traveled even further south and down into the sand hills where we found Chimney Rock. “You have died of Dysentery,” unless you were born in the 1980’s, you’ve probably never played the original Oregon Trail computer game. In the game, you play the part of a settler in charge of a wagon full of people that are trying to make it to Oregon in the 1800’s. Chimney Rock was one of the most recognizable landmarks on the early pioneer’s journey west on the Oregon Trail as it is in the computer game. In fact, it is because of this computer game that I learned about Chimney Rock in the first place. Does anyone remember when computer games were educational?

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Taken through the Chimney Rock Visitor Center Telescope.

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Chimney Rock, Nebraska

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Fits right in the palm of my hand!

From Chimney Rock we decided to start heading north and found ourselves in Scott’s Bluff at an authentic Mexican taco shop called Antonio’s Taco Shop. It’s a small family owned restaurant and the food is amazing. We decided to sample a few items and so chose to do the mini tacos. We ordered marinated pork, beef and lengua, which is Spanish for tongue. Yep, we ate tongue tacos. They actually weren’t bad. They were tender and still tasted like beef, although there was that organ after taste to it. Now, I know what you’re thinking.’ I could never eat anything like that!’ Well, yes you can and yes you should. If you’re taking time out of your life to travel someplace you’ve never been to see things you’ve never seen, then you should also try foods you’ve never even dreamed of trying. It’s that simple.

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Antonio’s Taco Shop, delicious!

Driving even further north, we eventually found ourselves in the Nebraska Badlands in a little area called the Toadstool Geological Park. The toadstool structures exist because the layers of clay and ash have been warped over time by wind and rain. These formations are amazing and there’s nothing like them anywhere. There are a few campsites available in the park and a couple primitive toilets. A couple was just leaving when we arrived, so we had the entire park to ourselves. The formations are amazing. It’s like looking into our geological past. The park also contains numerous fossils and animal tracks. Because of the fossilized animal tracks, scientists have been able to study animal migration patterns in this area.

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Nebraska Badlands

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Hiking Toadstool Geological Park.

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My own personal Toadstool!

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Toadstool Geological Park

The last leg of our trip brought up back into South Dakota at the all new glamping site near Keystone. But that will have to be a post all on its own.

 

 

 


I Heart NYC!

Can you do NYC in 3 days? Yes. Will you be exhausted? Yes. Will your feet hurt? Probably. Should you do it? Absolutely! We did and saw a ton of cool things, ate some great food and listened to some amazing music. We were extremely exhausted and our feet hurt sooo bad by the time we got home but it was totally worth it. Here’s how our 3 days played out.

Day 1

Our first mission after we checked into our hotel was to get some New York City pizza! It was delicious and of course we ate too much!  After lunch we walked down by the water and were able to jump on one of the tour boats that take you around Hudson Bay. We went under the Brooklyn and the Manhattan bridges and then got a good look at the Statue of Liberty. Those lines fill in fast so get there early.

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Brooklyn Bridge

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Boat ride with NYC skyline reflected in the window.

Next we ventured over to the 9/11 Memorial site and toured the museum. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the day that tragedy changed our country forever, as I’m sure most of you do too. As a result, the emotional experience was greater than it has been for any other memorial or museum I’ve ever been too.

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Reflecting Pool 9/11 Memorial

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Rose left on 9/11 Memorial with new World Trade Center building in background.

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Remains of concrete stairs from one of the towers. 9/11 Memorial Museum

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Fire truck, 9/11 Museum

We decided to stay in a hotel that was away from all the craziness, so we booked one located in the financial district of lower Manhattan only a couple of blocks from the shore of the East River. Our hotel was also just a couple blocks from the famous Wall Street Bull, but it was always completely surrounded by tourists whenever we walked by. (Hint: If you want to take a picture with the Wall Street Bull and not have to wait in line with a thousand other people, go on Sunday morning before 8am. There’s absolutely no one around at that time!)

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Wall Street Bull

Day 2

What’s wonderful about New York is all the history you can stumble upon just walking through the city. We happened to stumble upon Trinity Church and right next to the church is a graveyard where you can find the burial site of Alexander Hamilton. Some gravestones around the church are so old, you can barely make out the writing on them. Many visitors leave pennies on the graves of Alexander Hamilton and his wife, which after a quick Google search revealed that leaving pennies on the grave would show the deceased loved one’s that they’re loved or simply that you visited. I didn’t want to leave a penny unless it meant something good, so after my research I learned that leaving a penny was not only meaningful but also a very old tradition.

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Trinity Church, NYC

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Grave of Alexander Hamilton.

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Graveyard, Trinity Church, NYC.

Next, we took an Uber to Times Square. It’s colorful, noisy, full of people and very touristy. There are plenty of places to shop and interesting characters that, for a small fee, will let you take a picture with them. We stayed long enough to snap a few photos and then headed over to Central Park.

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Times Square, NYC.

For us Midwesterners, Central Park was a beautiful respite from the concrete jungle that is New York. The park is absolutely gorgeous and a lot bigger than you think it is. We stopped by Strawberry Fields to pay homage to John Lennon then found a hot dog cart and headed over to the lake to have a picnic. The weather was perfect, the birds were chirping, squirrels running around and children playing. It was perfect.

We continued to stroll through the park until we emerged on the other side to find the Guggenheim. I’ve always wanted to visit this museum ever since I learned about its architectural design and saw Will Smith chase an alien all the way to the top in Men in Black. It did not disappoint. Afterwards we walked down to the Met to peruse their collection of Rembrandts.

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Strawberry Fields, Central Park, NYC.

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The Guggenheim!

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Rembrandt, Self Portrait. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.

On our way back to our hotel, we stopped in Little Italy for supper. We were told by a New York native about a restaurant called Lunella Ristorante and it was the most amazing Italian food we’ve ever eaten! Plus, the owner schooled Reed on the proper way to pour oil and vinegar for dipping bread. (The vinegar goes first!) We talk about that pasta we had there all the time! We can’t wait to go back just to eat there again!

 

Day 3

On our last day in NYC, we decided to head up to Chelsea to have breakfast in the Chelsea Market. After some lemon ricotta French toast, we climbed up to the High Line and headed over to Pier 86 on the Hudson River to tour the Intrepid Museum. The Intrepid is an aircraft carrier that served tours of duty in World War II and the Vietnam War. It was also used as a recovery ship for some of the space missions. Many of the volunteers on the ship are former military. One particular gentleman on our tour was not only a World War II Veteran, but he had also served on the Intrepid! It was amazing to hear his stories and listen to him explain his job on the ship. Our WWII Veterans are becoming fewer and fewer, so to be able to meet him and hear his story was an amazing experience that we will never forget! The museum also houses the space shuttle Enterprise in their space exhibit.

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Chelsea Market, NYC

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Inside Chelsea Market, NYC.

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The High Line, NYC

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The deck of the Intrepid Museum.

 

 

After our tour, we headed over to the Museum of Modern Art. Van Gogh’s Starry Night is our all time favorite painting. To be able to see it in person was absolutely amazing! Get there early though, large groups tend to crowd around the painting, which is a lot smaller than you realize.

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Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh. Museum of Modern Art, NYC

After leaving the museum, we decided to explore the neighborhood for a while and just happened to turn a corner and found the LOVE sculpture! I had forgotten about it until we saw it. It’s a great place for a cute selfie, if nothing else! IMG_20160612_145052

In the evening we headed over to Webster Hall, which was the reason for our trip in the first place, to see Tom Petty and his pre-Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch. Webster Hall is a very old and iconic venue for performers and it was amazing to get to see a legend play there.

Having grown up in a small town (so small there’s less than 350 people who live in it) you wouldn’t think I would like being in a city as large and crowded as NYC. But as it turns out, I fell in love with it. The sights, the sounds, the smells (some were questionable), everything about this city feels like you’re starring in your own sitcom.

Although we did manage to see and do so much in our 3 days, there’s still so much we didn’t get to see and do. So, until next time NYC! We’ll be back!

 


Buy Local. Eat Local.

The smells of fresh-cut flowers and wood fire pizzas on a warm Saturday morning. Can life get any better than that? Yes it can. Because among the flowers and pizzas, you’ll find a cache of fresh local produce, fresh-baked goods, meats and cheeses. In my mind, the only thing missing that would make this picture complete is wine.

I must confess, my husband and I normally come down to the farmers market a couple of times a month just for the wood fire breakfast pizzas. They’re delicious. Made with fresh ingredients and a very light thin crust. We’d grab two to go and a couple of coffees, then head across the way to have a picnic and just enjoy each other’s company in the peaceful setting that is falls park.

This time however, we decided to explore the market a little deeper and put together an entire meal made with only locally grown/sourced food. After walking up and down the market several times, we finally decided on walleye, chard, carrots, corn salsa and rhubarb. On the way home we stopped and picked up some locally made beer and locally made ice cream to finish off our meal.

In a world where you have to buy special cleaning solutions to clean all the chemicals off your grocery store produce, it’s in your best interest to visit your local farmers market and buy directly from the source. Also there’s just something genuinely satisfying about supporting your local farmers and knowing exactly where your food came from. Having grown up in a small farming community, I know firsthand how important they are to their local economies. So get out there and support your local farmers and ranchers!

Needless to say our meal was completely amazing and we can’t wait to do it again. Our completed meal was as follows: grilled Cajun walleye with corn salsa, grilled carrots with farm honey and creamed chard followed by rhubarb pie topped with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Needless to say, it was amazing! We had never had chard before, but it was excellent and I recommend you try it. Enjoy the pictures below from our day!

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Falls Park Farmers Market

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Pickle Sized Cucumbers!

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Fresh Lettuce

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Who loves asparagus with hollandaise?

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Fresh Strawberries!

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More Leafy Greens

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Never was a radish fan, but they looked pretty.

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Homemade preserves and salsas.

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My favorite vendor! Skipping Stone Pizza!

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Best breakfast pizza ever!

 

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The nectar of the gods!

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Our final product.

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Rhubarb pie made with my grandmothers pie crust recipe and some Stensland vanilla ice cream.

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A beautiful bouquet for the table.

 


Magnificence and Merriment in South Dakota

We’re South Dakotans born and raised and even we haven’t seen or experienced everything our beautiful state has to offer; but we’re working on it! For now, we’d like to share some of our adventures from our Black Hills vacation.

Situated in the western half of the state, lies some of the most beautiful country in the Midwest, the Black Hills and of course the Badlands. The two display vastly different terrains and a distinct beauty of their own.

When people hear South Dakota, they automatically think Mt Rushmore. Now don’t get me wrong, Mt Rushmore is a very important landmark and brings thousands of visitors to our state every year, but South Dakota has so much more to offer that many people don’t realize. We’re a very family friendly state. There are so many things for kids to do here, that they won’t know where to start first but they’ll definitely want to see them all!

The first stop on our South Dakota adventure was the Badlands National Park. The Lakota name for the Badlands is “Mako Sica” which translates to “land bad”. Badlands National Park displays 244,000 acres of dramatically eroding landscape, which means that if you visited the park every year you’d never see the same park. The Badlands exist because 75 million years ago the Great Plains were covered by a shallow sea. The park offers a number of hiking trails and allows primitive camping as well, as long as you sign in on your trails. The beauty of the land formations may take center stage of this gorgeous area, but there’s also plenty of wildlife and fossil beds as well.

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Shortly after leaving the Badlands, we arrived in Keystone, SD where we had arranged our hotel stay. From the city of Keystone, Mt Rushmore is just a quick drive up the hill. Mt. Rushmore, the most recognizable icon representing South Dakota displays the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln; four men whose leadership left an incredible impact on America as we know it. The mountain was carved by a sculptor known as Gutzon Borglum, who passed away a few months before its completion leaving his son to complete the project. An avenue of flags lines the pathway to the viewing balcony for Mt. Rushmore. The Presidential trail offers different views of the faces and is an easy trail to navigate. It also allows you to view local wildlife around the park. We didn’t stay for it, but in the evenings there’s a nightly lighting ceremony.

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Mt. Rushmore, Black Hills, SD

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George Washington, Mt Rushmore, Black Hills, SD

 

There’s so many great places to visit and activities for kids in the Black Hills that we can’t possibly  talk about all of them in one post so we’re just going to highlight our favorites.

The Cosmos: the Cosmos was so much fun. It’s weird and it messes with your mind and it’s completely awesome! Balls roll uphill and standing straight is a 45 degree angle. As the story goes, the Cosmos was discovered in 1952 by two college boys looking for a place to build a cabin. When they came upon this area, the “laws of logic and physics seemed to be turned upside down”.  The tour takes about 30 minutes and is very inexpensive. Anyone 12 years and older is $11 per person, $6 for kids 5 years to 11 years and 4 years and under are free.

 

Reptile Gardens: Reptile Gardens holds the Guinness Book of World Records for world’s largest reptile zoo. The giant tortoises were probably our favorite part! They offer a few different shows throughout the day, one being the alligator show where at the end our son was able to pet a baby alligator! They also have a collection of birds and a Prairie Dog town.

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Big Thunder Gold Mine: At Big Thunder in Keystone, you’ll take a tour through an actual gold mine. You learn about how the mine was created, what tools were used, and the history of its original owners. After the tour, we had the opportunity to visit their museum which boasts the largest collection of Black Hills gold mining equipment. If you’re feeling super adventurous, you can also try your hand at gold panning. You get to keep what you find and they guarantee you’ll find something!

 

Rushmore Cave: Rushmore Cave is absolutely stunning! A couple of stalactites and stalagmites were photographed by National Geographic. There’s even an area where you can spot a pigs nose! The tour lasts about an hour and costs between $10-$16 dollars per person.  It’s really incredible and should be on your South Dakota vacation list. After our cave tour, we headed over to the Gunslinger 7D Interactive Ride, which was our son’s favorite part. You get to choose from different scenarios and fight aliens or even zombies. Your seat moves and vibrates while you’re trying to fight off the enemies

 

Sylvan Lake: Another picturesque place you need to visit is Sylvan Lake located in Custer State Park. If the drive leading to Sylvan Lake wasn’t beautiful enough, when you finally reach the lake you find yourself inside a postcard of some far away land. There’s plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing, swimming and small watercraft such as  paddle boats and kayaks. IMG_9670IMG_9667

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Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park, SD

 

1880 Train: I loved trains when I was a kid. I remember getting an electric train for Christmas when I was around 8 years old. Getting to ride the 1880 train was a real treat, it’s a working steam engine! The train runs between Keystone and Hill City, so you get on in either city. We got on the train at Keystone. The trip takes about an hour one way. Along the way, we had the opportunity to see the remnants of old mines, some wildlife and the National Forest. 104925308836160883187925783097421617491340n

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1880 Train, Keystone, SD

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Wall Drug: On our way back home, we decided to stop for the “free ice water” at Wall Drug. It’s a very touristy stop, but it has an interesting history (which you can read about here) and kids love it. There’s numerous fun photo ops in their backyard, quirky displays and some of the most delicious fudge I’ve ever eaten! It was a great end to our short little trip. We hope, you’ll come visit our great state this coming summer. You won’t be disappointed!

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Wall Drug Back Yard, Wall, SD


Oh, Christmas Tree!

This year our Christmas tree was extra special. It was the first year that we cut down our own. What makes it even more special is that we cut it from our own back yard! Wait what? Yes, we got our Christmas tree from our back yard.

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The truth is, the tree was in a terrible location. It wouldn’t have been a problem, but a couple of years ago we put fence around our property, which rubbed right up against our tree. The bigger the tree gets, the more it pushes against the fence. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t we just have the tree relocated? Well, for the simple reason that the fiber optic cable and internet lines run very close to where the tree was planted and there was no way to remove it without causing thousands of dollars in damage and repairs.

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So the three of us made the decision to give our tree a grand farewell and show it all the holiday love we could. Jayden helped me cut it down, then we decorated it with ornaments we’ve been collecting since his first Christmas. He went through a Scooby Doo phase, a Star Wars phase and one year even chose the Beatles Yellow Submarine. Needless to say, it turned out pretty amazing and smells pretty good too!

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I’ve always loved Christmas lights! Growing up, I always had my own set of lights to hang up in my room. There’s something very magical about the glow of Christmas lights, especially when it’s the only light in the room! We love our little tree, and will enjoy every moment of this Christmas season. Then once spring comes, we’ll give our tree one final goodbye when we get together with our friends for the first neighborhood bonfire of the year.

For now, I need to find a way to keep the dogs from drinking all the water from the tree stand!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

 


Thankful, Grateful, Happy

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” Henry David Thoreau

The picture above is from my dining room. In the frames, you’ll find all the turkeys my son made in elementary school; each one completely different from the previous years. I keep them behind our framed menus so that every November I can flip them out and display them. My favorite is the “Darth Vader Turkey” that we made together. The assignment was to create a disguise for the turkey so he wouldn’t be eaten for Thanksgiving! It was a lot of fun!

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Jayden holding our Darth Vader disguised turkey!

When Jayden was creating these turkeys, he wasn’t worried about making his turkey perfect. He wasn’t thinking about making his turkey better than his classmates. He was just happy to be making the turkey. I am thankful for many things this year, but mostly I’m thankful for my son and the person he has grown to be.

My son knows what he wants and what he likes. He doesn’t feel the need to do certain things because everyone else is doing them. He is a unique individual and lives his life in that manner; he doesn’t let insignificant things bother him or get him down. As a parent, you teach your children to be good people and to be themselves and when it’s time for them to live on their own; you hope like hell that something stuck with them. I don’t have that worry and I’m very thankful for that.

I feel that Jayden can teach us all valuable lessons about life.

  • Stop chasing perfection. No one is perfect. And no one expects you to be perfect. Stop stressing about little details that only you will notice. It doesn’t matter in the long run.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparison is a death sentence for your joy and happiness. It doesn’t matter what other people have or what they do. Focus on your goals, on yourself and success will follow.
  • Do what makes you happy. Even if it’s not what everyone else is doing.

I’d like to wish everyone a fantastic Thanksgiving this year. Cherish the time you spend with family and do what makes you happy!

 


Tuna Noodle Picnics and Blanket Forts

We got our first little bit of snow today. It wasn’t much, just barely enough to make the ground white before it started to disappear. It’s this time of year that makes me think about all the indoor activities we love that keep us warm and cozy. Although curling up in front of the fire with a bowl of hot soup always sounds amazing, there are other activities that are just as cozy and fun!

Our son Jaydens’ favorite meal is tuna and noodles. Which is really surprising considering he’s the pickiest eater in the world! It’s probably the worst meal you can make. We make ours with bow tie noodles, a can of cream of celery soup, a can of tuna and a little milk. That’s it! But for some reason he loves it! Unfortunately though, his dad hates it so we only made it when he was working a late shift. It  became a fun tradition for the two of us and to make it even more special; we turned it into a weekly picnic.

We’d spread a large beach towel on the floor and pour two glasses of milk. Then, with our plates nearly overflowing with tuna and noodles, we’d sit down on the floor and feast. Sometimes Jayden would tell me about his day, other times he’d turn on his favorite show and tell me all about the characters in it.

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Thick wool socks makes your tuna noodle picnic even cozier!

Another of Jayden’s favorite childhood adventures was building blanket forts. He’d become pretty skilled at them and built them with multiple rooms and levels. He loved having us visit him in his blanket forts. He usually had a working door that we’d have to knock on and he’d show us around. His favorite fort was the one we built on the deck. We put an air mattress in it and slept in it overnight like a tent. It was a lot of fun!Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

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Even though our son has outgrown building blankets forts, he will still talk and reminisce about some of the more elaborate ones that we’ve built especially the one we built on the deck. Those memories are well ingrained into his mind. Also, we no longer sit on the floor and eat tuna and noodles, but it’s still his favorite meal, which he now knows how to make himself! Every once in a while, he does ask to have a picnic again and that’s a big deal for me since he’s now 17 and doesn’t spend as much time with us as he used to. Hearing him talk about things we did when he was a child makes me sad because he’s no longer my little boy, but also excited because he now has traditions that he can continue when he starts his own family.

What an adventure that will be!


6 Tips for Visiting Horseshoe Bend

A river is water is its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart.

Roderick Haig-Brown

Just south of the Glen Canyon Dam, the Colorado River makes a dramatic wave sort of taunting you as she continues her journey into the Grand Canyon. The Horseshoe Bend is a spectacular site and you really need to see it in person to really appreciate its beauty and energy. It’s located in a pretty convenient location. In fact, it’s only a few miles outside Page, AZ which is where you’ll find Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell. It’s also just a couple of hours north of the Grand Canyon.

The bend is one of the most photographed places in the country; photographers come from all over the world to capture the contrast of the soft sunset against the rocky cutout. If you’re interested in the best ways to photograph the bend, you can find tips from professional photographers here.DSC00405

We did a little research when we were planning our visit here and we’re glad we did. Here are 6 things we found very useful to know before heading to Horseshoe Bend:

  1. No Fees! There is no cost to see Horseshoe Bend, you’re also able to park for free. Yay!
  2. Bring water. Well, you are in the desert! Also, you will have to hike about 3/4 miles to get to the lookout point. Next to the parking lot you’ll find some primitive bathrooms equipped with hand sanitizer, but no running water.
  3. Wear good shoes. We don’t recommend heels for this hike, but perhaps a good walking shoe. The path is well-traveled but is still uneven and you will have to step over small rocks sticking out of the ground. We saw folks of all ages making the hike, so don’t let that scare you off.
  4. No safety features. There are no safety rails around the lookout point and the rocks are uneven. If you’re brave enough to walk to the edge, do so slowly and with utmost care. Those good shoes come into play here as well. If you have young children or dogs in tow, be vigilant.
  5. Great views no matter where you stand. If you’re not a fan of heights, you can still get a great view of Horseshoe Bend away from the edge. If heights still aren’t your thing, there are rafting tours available to enjoy horseshoe bend from below.
  6. Can be very busy. Depending on the time of day you visit, it can be very busy. Sunset is by far the busiest time. But, if you’re not looking for that dramatic sunset shot, earlier in the day would be a less busy time to visit. We visited during the busy sunset hour, unfortunately the clouds rolled in and we didn’t get to see the sunset but it was still very beautiful. Especially the way the clouds reflected off the water.

If you’re planning a trip to Horseshoe Bend, don’t hesitate to ask questions below or share your own experience! We’d love to hear from you!


Come Get Your Kicks…..

If you ever plan to motor west, travel my way, take the highway that is best. Get your kicks on route sixty-six….

Those words blared through the speakers of our Ford Mustang, keeping time with the purr of that V8 engine on that old stretch of highway.

Driving a Ford Mustang along Route 66? Can you get any more American than that? Throw in Chuck Berry’s version of Route 66? Now, you can’t get any more American than that, unless of course we were eating apple pie along the way.

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The Mustang in Williams, AZ.

 

On our recent Arizona adventure, we had the opportunity to travel the Arizona section of Historic Route 66. Cruising the entire route from Illinois to California is definitely on our bucket list, but this at least gave us a small taste until we can get that adventure crossed off.

Traveling west out of Flagstaff, most of the original Route 66 was absorbed by Interstate 40. Not until we passed Ash Fork did we find a stretch of old Route 66 that we could stay on for more than a couple of miles.

We made three stops on the route. The first was a quick stop in Williams and the second an even quicker stop in Ash Fork. Our third and favorite stop and the one we’ll dedicate the most writing to was Seligman, AZ.

Seligman and its history with the interstate are what Pixar loosely based the animated film Cars on. Angel Delgadillo, the man responsible for getting Route 66 listed as a historic site was born and still lives in Seligman. Angel was there at the beginning of Route 66 and unfortunately was there for its demise when I-40 opened. He used to run the towns barber shop, which is still there with the original chair and all his tools, but now houses a gift shop that includes everything you could ever want with the Route 66 logo on it. There are numerous little shops full of gifts and memorabilia. One shop even has a small museum with vintage cars and bikes in the back. The people are very friendly, curious about where you’re from and interested in what brought you their way.

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Angel Delgadillo’s barber shop turned gift shop in Seligman, AZ.

 

Seligman has this sort of magical quality to it. It brings you back to your childhood; back to a time where your imagination was free and untethered by the responsibilities that come with adulthood. There are motorcycles sticking out of the ground, numerous old cars and back behind the Snow Cap Ice Cream Shop is like stepping into another dimension. There’s a pair of legs sticking out of the dog house. A head in a toilet and so many other oddities it’s hard to describe them all. If we haven’t mentioned it yet, we love crazy, somewhat tacky places.

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Oddities behind the Snow Cap Ice Cream Shop, Seligman, AZ.

 

Now if that wasn’t crazy enough, we came into town close to the lunch hour.  Where do you eat in Seligman, AZ? The Roadkill Café of course! The café has an old school truck stop feel to it, but the food is pretty tasty if you can look beyond the crazy names. I believe we both enjoyed a Caddie Grilled Patty (hamburger). Their menu is so crazy and fun they actually sell copies of it in their gift shop!

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Roadkill Café, Seligman, AZ.

 

From Seligman, Route 66 takes quite a leap away from Interstate 40. There are numerous small towns along the way, each with their own quirk. We didn’t stop at any of them but we were able to glance out the car window and see what once was.


Jamaica’s Hidden Paradise

Pulling into the parking lot, it didn’t look like much. In fact we were kind of wondering what the hell we’d gotten ourselves into. Walking down a rough gravel path, the jungle opened up and we found it. Paradise! Aqua blue-green fresh water, lush greenery and a gorgeous waterfall garnishing the delicious scene in front of us.

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The Blue Hole is not your typical tourist attraction. In fact there’s really no commercialization at all. The paths are rough and precariously covered with tree roots. Although the guides are all excellent swimmers, there are no official lifeguards on duty. Water shoes are a must, since you will be climbing and walking over slippery rocks. It’s not handicapped accessible or appropriate for small children. There’s no charge for entering the Blue Hole, the guides work for tips.

Every group that came out had two guides; one main guide and the other to take pictures. We were going to leave our phones in our taxi but our second guide offered to take pictures for us. It was amazing! He took great pictures and even some videos for us. Watching him swim across one handed with the other hand in the air holding 3 cell phones was pretty incredible.

There were many different areas where we could jump off rocks into the cool blue waters. Most were around 6-10 foot jumps, but for the really adventurous there was the option for a 25 foot jump. My favorite part of the Blue Hole experience was scaling the waterfall. It was so amazing. They have a rope set up to assist you with the descent and when you’re about 10 feet from the bottom, they have you jump off.

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Blue Hole Waterfall, Jamaica

Jamaica has some of the kindest, most welcoming people we have ever met. The only reason we even found out about this place was because we were talking with the locals! Which, if you’ve ever read our post “6 Things We’ve Learned While Traveling“, you’ll know that talking with the locals is always a great idea!