Stay In. Unplug. Restore

Don’t have the budget for a big family vacation? No problem! What if I told you that you could have a fun family vacation right at home? Not possible you say? Well, I beg to differ. Ever heard of a staycation?

A staycation is a vacation you take at home or with minimal travel from your home. And it has many benefits such as financial savings, much needed R&R and quality family time. As impossible as it sounds, it can be done as long as you make preparations and set some ground rules beforehand.

Make Plans

If you’re kids are older, involve them in the planning process. Let them choose what activities they want to do and when they want to do them. If your family likes structure, create an itinerary together. If your family loves spontaneity, place all your activities in a hat and draw one out each day. Try new restaurants on staycation, or gather take out menus from all your favorite restaurants and have food delivered.  If eating out every day is not an option, plan a freezer meal day and put together some easy meals that everyone will love. You should also plan to prep your home ahead of time as well. Have a marathon laundry day and get the whole family to help clean.

Set Ground Rules

It’s important to also set some ground rules for your staycation and the entire family should be involved in its creation as well. Ground rules could include all or some of the following:

No screens (phones, tablets, tv)

No email

No working from home

No outside plans with friends

No independent activities

No laundry

No cooking

No fighting

Budget

Just like any vacation, you’ll need to plan a budget. Set money aside for your activities, eating out or splurge for a housekeeper to clean for you while you’re vacationing. You can set aside money ahead of time and plan your activities based on that amount or you can plan all your activities, then decide if you’ll be able to do them all or if you’ll have to remove some.

Fashion some Fun!

See a movie: Rent a movie to watch at home or go to the theater. Many theaters offer matinee prices if you go earlier in the day. Better yet, hit up the drive-in! Living on the Eastern side of South Dakota, we’re just a short drive into Minnesota to hit up the Verne Drive in.

Have a Movie Marathon: Let each family member select a movie. After each movie, talk about what they liked or didn’t like about it. Who was their favorite character and why? Get some fun popcorn boxes and the boxes of movie theater candy to make it feel like you’re really at the theater.

Go camping: Find a state park close to your area or just go camping in your own backyard. If you don’t own a tent, no worries! Build a blanket fort and sleep in that!

Take A Class: Many communities provide community education classes covering a variety of subjects. Some are free but most cost a minimal fee.

Explore your city: Research your city like a tourist. Look on Pinterest or visit your local chamber of commerce and pick up a free city guide.

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Try Curling!

 

20 Things to do in and around Sioux Falls:

  1. Go to a movie
  2. Visit the Science Museum
  3. Go to the Farmers Market
  4. Go to a sporting event ( baseball, arena football, basketball or hockey)
  5. Check out nearby State Parks
  6. Go kayaking
  7. Thunder Road
  8. Go brewery hopping
  9. Attend sangria Sunday or Thursday Night Porch Series at Strawbale Winery
  10. Attend the Sioux Empire Fair
  11. Go golfing
  12. Go to the zoo
  13. Attend movie night in the park
  14. Go skiing or tubing at Great Bear Ski Resort
  15. Go shopping downtown on Phillips Avenue
  16. Hit the bike trails
  17. Take a class through community education
  18. Go bowling
  19. Visit the Outdoor Campus
  20. Visit the Butterfly House and Marine Cove

 


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.