Up North

Last year our son really got into fishing so over the winter we decided to plan a fishing vacation during our boy’s birthday week. We found a very old-school looking family-owned resort in Northern Wisconsin that had everything we were looking for — a dog-friendly cabin that would fit our family plus my parents, a dock to fish from & where we could tie-up my dad’s fishing boat, and a lake with fish in it. And last week we packed up our little car and made the 5hour trek north to Lost Land Lake.

Reserving these types of places online sight-unseen is always a bit of a gamble because you really never know what a place is like. A couple photos online and testimonials help, but you never really know until you get there. After a quick stop for groceries in Hayward, the nearest town, we  made the 30minute drive out of all cell service to the very end of a dead-end road on which the Northland Lodge is situated. When I walked into the lodge, I was greeted with a smile and a handshake by an extremely kind lady who let me know that my parents had just arrived and then gave me a run-down of activities and amenities.

We made our way to our neat & tidy little cabin and spent the evening getting settled in. It was quite literally just steps away from the water…

img_3499And although the cabins did not have a ton of space between them, I found the resort to be very quiet and peaceful.  Despite the early morning that would surely be coming from us, that didn’t stop a certain little lady from getting her hook in the water that very night…

img_3507When you have fish at your doorstep, why wait? As the last of the light faded, we all made our way to bed for the night. Falling asleep to loons calling out on the lake, I definitely had a good feeling about the week.

And then I awoke the next morning to this…

img_3400Does it get any more picturesque?

I spent the next day and a good portion of every day doing this… img_3505I learned a lot on the boat during this trip. First, that my re-spooling of our fishing poles was a drastic improvement over the mess we had at the end of last year. Second, I am now a wizard with the palomar knot and I’m working on getting better with the uni knot. And third, the fisherman’s gloves that I have really help me get over the issues I have handling fish. I’m not proud to admit that handling them totally weirds me out, but it totally does. It totally, totally does. And these gloves actually really helped me get over that to the point that I can get in there and take hooks out all by myself. Sure, as I’m doing it I’m usually talking the fish through it — “Hey guy, I’m sorry I hooked you, but if you hold still I’ll get it out quickly and put you right back in the water, OK?” The main thing, though, is that I can actually help the kids as well as myself when we’re out and that makes the whole experience a lot better for everyone. In any case, the fish were biting like gangbusters — we caught loads of small fish, most of which we released except for just enough for a little fish fry for my son’s birthday party on Friday night.

We also brought along one of our kayaks which the kids loved getting acquainted with and Moose…

img_3501Well, he insisted on having a turn, too. He’s such a weird dog.

We also discovered something new about Moose…

img_3435We are well aware that he sometimes doesn’t understand the difference between shouts of joy & shouts of distress, so when my daughter was whew-hooing away with kayaking glee, Moose did what he thought needed to be done.

img_3443He chased her down…

img_3456Grabbed the strap on the front of the boat…

img_3457Towed her into shore…

img_3453Got himself some sure footing on land and held her there.

We’re not sure how he figured this all out since we didn’t show him how to do any of it, but I’ll admit my heart melted a little to know what great lengths my sweet pup will go to keep my kiddos safe. The downside, of course, is that once he put it all together he seemed kind of frustrated that after all his hard work both kids always wanted to instantly turn back around and go back out. He kept trying to grab them and tow them back in before they passed the end of the dock. As you can imagine, this made for a very tired Moose.

img_3490Silly, sweet Moose.

While Mr. Knitting Sarah took charge of the kayaking lessons with both kids, I stole a little time for crafting. I had packed up my spinning wheel and a couple projects when at the last minute we discovered that my spinning wheel would not fit in the car. I won’t lie, I was so sad!  Thinking on my feet because we were literally headed out the door, I grabbed a simple knitting project and my spindle spinning project to take its place. And the weirdest thing happened…

img_3504It was perfect!

I kept catching my husband watching me as I spun and then he would start chuckling to himself. Thinking he was laughing at me, after a couple days I called him out on it to which he responded, “No! I’m not laughing at you! I’m laughing at me. It’s just so hypnotic I can’t stop staring at it!” And it was — very soothing and relaxing and dare I say I actually really increased not only my comfort level with the spindles, but also my speed which was fantastic.

img_3494I managed to get through most of what remained of this 2oz of fiber and officially finished it up last night at home. This is one of my 1+1+1 projects that I thought was hopeless, that I would never finish on time. Now… there’s a chance. I’ve got the contrast color I’ll be plying with it left to go and I’m optimistic that the singles will be done by the end of the month.

I’ve been working on a lace knitting project which I knew would not fly in this type of environment, so instead I started yet another of my 1+1+1 projects…

img_2232My Hamlin Peak Cardi in Quince & Co Kestrel. It’s a very simple knit that I’ve really been enjoying. In the interest of full disclosure, I had to start over a couple times because I wasn’t being very careful about increases, but I’m on the straight-and-narrow now. I really love how simple the design is and I’m finding it a super fun knit. It turned out being a great fit for the fishing trip, too, because my hands were so incredibly dry from being in the water and worm dirt and what-have-you all day that there were times the wool of my spinning project was sticking to my hands like velcro. The linen posed no such problems. Hooray!

The birthday boy, of course, was spoiled appropriately. He picked a double chocolate cake along with some cookies & cream ice cream to follow his fish fry birthday dinner and mac n’ cheese birthday dinner. I added the trick candles because I knew his trickster nature would appreciate it. He was showered with a few new books, including a D&D Monster Manual that he read non-stop in his non-fishing time — he loves to create monsters!

img_3496He also got a couple Tin-Tin books as well as a couple new Wii games to indulge in at home. But mostly, he was happy to have loads of time for this…

img_3506And we were delighted to spend that time with him.

All in all, we had beautiful weather, excellent fishing, and many good times. The only thing missing was catching a glimpse of a black bear out in the wild which was on my husband’s wishlist. We even went for a hike through the woods thick with mosquitoes to try to see one but to no avail. Next time, I guess. Next time.

We’re home now, tanned and tired and only driven slightly mad by our share of mosquito bites. The bags are mostly unpacked. The Laundry (yes, with a capital L) is being tackled slowly, but surely. The kayak is put away in the boathouse. And the kids are sleeping in. And I’m going to sip my coffee and exist in this moment for just a little while longer…

img_3500It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.

Adventure Boundary Waters: When Life Happens

Last week my son turned ten. He’s crazy tall and adventurous. He loves Calvin & Hobbes and the TV show River Monsters. He’s the most empathetic person I know and he would do anything for family and friends. And he loves fishing. For his ‘golden birthday’ we’d planned a trip to the Boundary Waters area of very northern Minnesota — we’re talking a couple miles from the border with Canada — so that we could hike and fish and do all the things that our boy loves.

Life happens though.

About a week before our departure, my husband injured his back. With our son so excited to go fishing ‘up north’ we didn’t have the heart to cancel, so we just decided that we’d leave our canoe which is heavy and not real practical to move or get into for someone with a back injury. If Mr Knitting Sarah was up for it, we’d rent a boat from one of the lodges and meanwhile the boy & I could fish from shore. Not ideal, but it would be ok. I did most of the packing and all of the lifting and off we went, Mr Knitting Sarah being a true trooper throughout.

The mosquitoes were… substantial. We’d brought along our taller tent so that if we were hanging at camp we could do so with comfy camp chairs in the tent and safe from the bloodthirsty bugs. Less than 50feet from the lake, we went to sleep listening to loons calling and awoke to them calling and racing maniacally up and down the lake at dawn. It was beautiful.

My son and I spent a fair bit of time using our campsites’ little lake access…

To explore with eyes and ears the water & surrounding forest. We were lucky in this trip in that we saw a black bear (the first ever for the kids & me), a moose and her calf, 3 baby foxes, loads of bald eagles, and a pair of peregrine falcons, among other wonders of the natural world.

With the mosquitoes taking over at camp, we took time to drive up to Grand Portage State Park for a hike up to the High Falls. The hike was short, but through a beautiful, thick forest…

IMG_9666With amazing lichen and moss…

IMG_9678And, of course, the crown jewel — the High Falls…

IMG_9674The other side of the gorge is Canada — the kids were almost as impressed by that as they were by the huge waterfall (really, the scale isn’t great here, that’s 120ft drop you’re looking at).

While on the North Shore we had a tip in Grand Marais from a local that we could catch trout and salmon in a couple hot spots…

We had no luck, but it sure was a great place to just hang out fishing. I could seriously live in this spot forever.

In fact, we found so many picturesque places…

IMG_9689Mostly with me and my boy throwing a line in the water while Mr Knitting Sarah rested his back and our girl played in the water with Moose. We decided to rent a boat Thursday to try to break the fishing shut-out for the birthday boy, but lo & behold on Wednesday night…

A northern pike — our boy’s trip dream fish — took the bait. We snapped this photo in a cloud of black flies and almost immediately after  Moose, the beloved wonderpup, started to freak out, rubbing his face all over. We got him into the car and piled in after him only to find his whole face ballooning to about twice its normal size in the most pronounced and severe allergic reaction I’ve ever seen. We were 30minutes from the nearest store to which we raced for benadryl. As we cruised toward town and got within cell range we discovered we were 3hours from the nearest ‘will definitely be there in the morning’ vet. We got Moose his benadryl which immediately calmed him and slowly but surely the swelling started to go down. Concerned with his history of allergies and worried that camping would not allow for a great recovery (not to mention the potential to encounter more black flies) we hurried back to camp, frantically broke everything back into the car, and started the long journey toward help should we need it and a clean hotel to allow our pup to recover.

The disappointment at cutting the fishing portion of the trip short was as palpable as the fear for our poor Moose.

The following morning, the majority of his head and face and returned to normal, but his jowls were still considerably swollen and he was exhausted from the meds and stress. It’s all how you choose to look at it though. Yes, it was terrifying to see Moose so sick. Yes, we had to give up the loons and the day on the boat and fishing. We traded it, though, for a two night hotel stay in Duluth including a trip to the very neat aquarium in town and some other sight-seeing as well as the reassurance that we’d have emergency vet care nearby should we need it. Moose got to go to a couple dog-friendly restaurants where he was appropriately babied and loved on and rested. Despite the unfortunate excitement that caused our return to civilization, we really did have a great time in Duluth. It wasn’t the vacation we’d envisioned by any means, but it was still grand. Life, after all, is always about perspectives and trade-offs and just making the most of the hand you are dealt.

We even made time for a quick stop at Yarn Harbor, the local LYS, in its new location. Yarn Harbor has a an exclusive line of colorways dyed by local dyers Three Irish Girls  that are inspired by the Duluth area and it’s somehow become a little tradition for me to pick one up when I’m in the area. This time I chose ‘Land of the Loon’…

IMG_9744Quite appropriate, I thought.

(This exclusive Duluth-inspired collection of yarns is also available online through Yarn Harbor, just so you know)

On the drive home, partly to give my hubby a chance to stretch his legs and back (which still hadn’t recovered as we’d hoped) and partly just because he’s sweet and he knew the dog being sick had been very stressful for me, we managed to find two other yarn shops along the way.

Kunert Kreations is right along highway in Gordon, WI and quite literally has a little bit of everything. We’d visited years ago on the way home from our last Boundary Waters trip and it was fun to pop in and see it again. Here, the kids each picked something for me to make for them.

My son picked this ‘northern pike colored’ yarn for a hat…

IMG_9745I’m thinking maybe a wurm, but haven’t decided yet.

And my daughter found this hot pink merino/silk from Louet…

IMG_9746I just finished spinning this fiber blend from the Louet June Spinzilla Pack before we left for vacation and was very impressed (more on that soon), so when my girl picked this and wouldn’t stop hugging it I knew it was coming home with us. She held onto it pretty much the whole 5+ hour drive home while she read.

Just south in downtown Spooner, Wisconsin is Northwind Book & Fiber. Now, just the fact that it’s a book and yarn/fiber store tugged at my heartstrings as a kind of a dream shop, especially if you throw in coffee or wine. To find a really good selection of both yarn and books when we entered was phenomenal. Thankfully, I managed to have some self control and picked just one item…

IMG_9748Three Feet of Sheep from Frabjous Fibers in a Merino Rainbow. I fully intend to turn these 8oz of fiber into one long rainbow striped yarn which will undoubtedly be beyond awesome. Oh, and both kids found books as well — win-win!

We arrived home and I immediately got Moose in the bath to make sure he was completely cleaned up and comfortable and the strangest thing happened — he made a very miraculous recovery. When I say ‘very miraculous’ I mean it — past allergic outbreaks with him have taken months to clear up and by the time we got home and he got his proper bath he was 100% fine. Phew.

Unfortunately, this happy ending did not hold true for poor Mr Knitting Sarah’s back. Over the weekend it took a severe turn for the worse and he awoke in the wee hours of Sunday morning with such severe pain that he was unable to move. Thanks to our tiny house which cannot accommodate a stretcher, 2 EMTs and 3 cops very kindy hoisted Mr Knitting Sarah out to an ambulance at around 4am yesterday morning and took him to the hospital. A few hours and a hefty dose of medication later, he was up and gingerly walking and we got to bring him home. It sounds like rest and physical therapy should help him heal and prevent this from happening again soon, but for the next few days I’ll be adding nurse to my daily duties to help get him rest up and ready to return to work.

I suppose with a less sunny attitude I could really view our family trips as being a bit cursed. The last trip to the Badlands our tent was obliterated by high winds and it ended up rainy, kind of cold, and with our son being sick most of the time, but we had an amazing time and strangely our memories of that trip are all good. This trip we had epic bugs, the dog’s extreme allergic reaction, and poor Mr Knitting Sarah’s back drama. Things kind of always go wrong. At the end of the day though, it’s the unexpected mishaps that make memories and while there were certainly some standout traumas, there were a lot of great times, too.

Playing in Lake Superior…

Hiking through the northern forests…

Incredible views…

IMG_9660And a very memorable 10th birthday for this young man…

  I’ve finally started to relax into a ‘this is just life’ mentality instead of dreading what’s going to go wrong next. Life happens and plans change and that’s ok. This is just life. And despite apparent setbacks and all the things that go wrong, a whole lot goes right. And we are making incredible memories along the way.

Loads of Great Things

Well, we spent a very harmonious morning back at the water’s edge yesterday with much better results. I managed to reel in this monster catch…

IMG_9171As a special treat, I even broke out my very best Jeremy Wade impression for my family as I narrated the unhooking, photographing, and release of this true 4 or 5inch lake monster. I’m pretty sure said impression comes out more like a cross between Jeremy Wade and Arnold Schwarzenegger, so it’s probably less of a treat and more an embarrassment for my family and additional evidence that I’m pretty easily entertained.

In any case, my son was more successful.

IMG_9178He managed to reel in this 15″ smallmouth bass. None of us could really believe it because this is the biggest fish any of us have ever caught, but we were so excited for my boy who could not have been more proud. For Mr Knitting Sarah and I, it was a huge relief as we were a little worried that the kids would lose interest before we could get any results on the fishing front. So far, 2 fishing expeditions, 0 humans hooked despite two children casting, and 1 perfectly respectable fish successfully landed. I’m going to call this an early season win.

On the spinning front I also have a win to share. Two months ago I started spinning 3 batts from Spun Right Round

https://igcdn-photos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpf1/t51.2885-15/10995077_1405636306409858_1720656856_n.jpg

And this morning, I finally finished the singles.

IMG_9216I ended up sort of kind of marling (is that a word?) these fibers together to try to get the colors really blended. There were parts of these batts that looked a little crazy together and the marling seemed to help even it all out. The finished singles almost max out a jumbo/plying bobbin on my Lendrum DT and the plan is to n-ply this bobbin in a nice round slightly crazy colorful 3-ply. I’m definitely hoping to get this skein finished in the next week as I think I’ll be getting in some new fiber to review soon. I have some summer spinning plans, too, that will include an invitation for you, but I’ll share details once I figure them out soonish.

After the troubled beginning to the leg portion of my Paper Moon socks, I’m happy to report it’s been smooth & happy sailing.

IMG_9218I’m not quite sure how tall these socks will wind up being as I went a little long in the foot to accommodate the bit of shrink that comes with knitting a cotton, but I’ll likely keep on keeping on until I start to stress about running out of yarn for the cuff. As you can see, this yarn is absolutely amazing with this pattern. I’m terribly tempted at the prospect of the hand-dyed sock yarn club for the coming summer. Remember to sign-up for the newsletter to get the news on this club, other Feel Good Yarn Company news, as well as free pattern delivered right to your inbox. Don’t forget that the FREE SHIPPING offer on orders $42 and up for SilverSpun yarn from Feel Good Yarn Company is still available, too — just enter the discount code SARAHKNITS at checkout to claim this special offer!

If just wearing these beauties isn’t motivation enough to finish, I got a little extra incentive in the mail a couple days ago…

IMG_9220-0 A stronger person would have waited and taken a picture of the seal pristine & unbroken, but you had better believe I tore right into this baby. I’ll have more on this fun club & this month’s beautiful project in the next couple of weeks as well as another fantastic giveaway for you, so keep your eyes peeled!

In addition to the short-term goodies, I’m happy to share that plans are in the works for a little bit of spinning fun this summer as well as a 2016 knitalong that I could not be more excited about if I tried. Loads of great things on my wheel, on my needles, and on the horizon, so stay tuned!

In Review: The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns

The first chills of autumn found their way to our neighborhood over the last week. With them have come cries of distress from my girl whose hands were freezing each morning as we walked to school. No, that’s not right. They weren’t freezing, they were FREEZING — spoken as only a true knitter’s child who has never known the discomfort of cold hands or head. Partly to get her stop complaining and partly because it’s what I do, I promised to knit up some mittens for her. She could pick the yarn & help me design them and I would ensure that her hands would not be cold on the way to school again. She accepted the plan of action & muddled through the chilly morning yesterday.

After school yesterday over her snack, I gave her some yarn options. She emphatically selected a skein of Greenwood Fiber Works Handspun.

image_medium3I selected this braid of fiber last year on my birthday from Susan’s Fiber Shop…

image_medium2And spun it up during the Tour de Fleece this summer into a skein of bulky/super bulky, Navajo-plied loveliness. My daughter has loved it since it was on the wheel, so it’s only fitting that she get it.

Rather than sifting through Ravelry for a pattern that fits my needs, I grabbed my favourite book for this situation: The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs by Ann Budd. Here’s how it works:

1) Flip to the chapter on what type of item you want to knit (i.e. mittens, gloves, hats, tams, scarves, socks, vests, basic sweaters — yes, they are all in this book!).

2) Select the size you want to knit, preferably using the measurements of the person for whom you are knitting.

3) Knit a swatch with your chosen yarn.

4) Read through the basic design elements included at the end of the chapter & decide which — if any — you’d like to use, or continue on with the basic no-frills pattern.

5) Follow the instructions for your designated gauge & size, incorporating any design elements you desire.

6) Enjoy your simple, custom garments & accessories.

 

Now I know there are probably some of you out there who this scares to death. ‘Work without a pattern? Uh-uh, no way!,’  but I promise that as long as you take a few moments to understand the layout of the book it is really very simple. It’s as basic as understanding how to check gauge & read a chart (not a lace chart, they call it a ‘chart’ but it’s just an excel-like spreadsheet). Oh, wait. You don’t know how to do that?  There is an excellent explanation on how to knit a swatch and read it on page 6  complete with a great illustration. There is also an in-depth explanation of how to interpret the charts within the book — they are pretty straight-forward to begin with, but just in case the author walks you through it. Perfect! Really, this is do-able for all knitters with basic skills.

There are many books from this publisher & author as well as many other series that are specifically written as a kind of blank canvas for design. Frankly, it can be overwhelming for most knitters, especially those who aren’t particularly fond of math. The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs is a great place to start though. I love that it includes the most basic accessories and presents basic design so simply. As a spinner, I especially love that I don’t necessarily have to have slap a label on my handspun — super bulky, bulky, worsted, etc — it doesn’t matter here. What matters is that I knit a swatch at the density I wanted for these mittens and it was 3 stitches per inch. Voila. With Ann Budd as my guide, I cast-on and was off.

Because I knew I would be tight on yarn & I was free-styling a bit, I knit these mittens 2-at-a-time. This means that they will definitely match and I don’t have to make notes as I go if I don’t want to. No stressful attempts at re-creation on mitten #2 because it is already done — that is my kind of approach for this kind of project! In the interest of full disclosure, the mitten pattern did not go down to the 3stitches per inch for gauge that I needed, but there was enough information there for me to easily make adjustments (and really, trust me when I say I am not a math whiz so this is do-able for most with enough patience). Because I am a new spinner I found that my yarn was actually a bit heavier on one end of the skein — the joys of handspun! — so I ended up adding a couple extra rows to the body of the lighter weight mitten before decreasing so that I would have the hand length I needed. When all was said & done, I finished my girl’s mittens last night and she awoke this morning to her brand new mittens.

Disclaimer on following photos: Now when I asked her to get dressed for school today, I also mentioned that I wanted her to pose for photos with her mittens for me. What she came out wearing was a hot pink tuille skirt, Hello Kitty t-shirt, neon striped knee socks, and completely different color family striped fleece pullover. And fuzzy ugg-type slipper shoes. Not exactly my dream for showing off these mittens, but she was adamant and I was not interested in a fight over the matter. We compromised and rolled up her sleeves a bit for the photos.

on kneeThey are sweet & colorful and soooooo my girl!

close-up on kneeI will say that at 3stitches per inch, getting the thumbs to look normal was a bit of a challenge, but I managed.

off handOverall, I am so very happy with the results of these basic mittens — the ease & speed with which I was able to knit them up, the fit, the colors — they are just perfect for my girl. Most importantly though, she loves them & her hands are warm. She wore them from the moment she woke up until she walked into school. I believe the above photo and a bathroom break or two were the only moments they weren’t on. She even refused to take them off for teeth brushing! I think I am safe to declare mission accomplished here.

If you are looking for this kind of basic no-fuss patterns that you can easily customize or maybe just looking to dip your toes in the waters of design or maybe you are a spinner who is having trouble knitting with your handspun, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs. It is guaranteed to fit the bill & be loads of fun to use!

 

Cooking Up Fun After-School Treats

Since all I have to report to you on the knitting front is that I am nearing the end of the collar that I restarted yesterday, I thought today I would share something off the usual knitting & spinning chat and very much on the topics of food & family. I’ve had a lot of friends on social media reaching out for school lunch & after-school snack ideas, so I thought I’d share some things that I’ve been piecing together here at our house over the past couple weeks.

If you are a regular here on knittingsarah.com, you’ll be aware that my kids both started school last week. It’s new for us — both kids being out of the house all day — so I wanted to do something extra nice for them when they got home these first couple weeks. The goal was to make them feel special and soften their transition into school as well as keep me busy & feeling connected to them during the day when they are away. While at the library looking for books on lunch box food ideas, I spotted some kid-friendly cookbooks that looked awesome. I brought them home figuring I’d page through them and get an idea or two. Who would have thought both kids would grab them as soon as they spotted them, pour through them &  fall in love with all the special treat ideas?  Their impulse, of course, was to make them all immediately. Thankfully we live a life of moderation, so the kids understood that we would take our time trying out different recipes. They aren’t all exactly the poster recipes for healthy eating, so we needed to space them out. Most importantly though, this mama had to go shopping!

20130910-153655.jpgWe started with ‘Fairy-Tale Floats’ from A Princess Cookbook by Sarah L. Schuette after the first full day of school — strawberry ice cream & lemon-lime soda. See what I mean? Not exactly the healthiest snacks, but a super fun treat for my active kiddos who enjoy some pretty darn healthy packed lucnhes & dinners! We also tried out ‘Princess Parfaits’ (basically yogurt + granola + fruit) as well as ‘Castle Crunch’ (Lucky Charms + peanuts + cranberries).

20130910-153803.jpg A Dinosaur Cookbook also by Sarah L. Schuette had some top picks, too, including ‘Fossil Tracks’ (crackers + peanut butter + chow mein noodles) & Jurassic Juice (fruit juice + frozen juice cubes with a fruit snack inside) the latter of which has been extra special since it’s been very hot here the last couple days. The biggest hit by far though was the very desserty ‘Lava Flows’ in which you place a marshallow in a mini-graham cracker crust drizzled with chocolate syrup (add a few red sugar sprinkles for added visual effect if you have them) and pop it in the microwave. Voila! Instant edible volcano! This one was a HUGE treat and super exciting for the kids!

20130910-153646.jpgWe’ve also been looking through this neat cookbook — The Do It Myself Kids’ Cookbook by Laurie Goldrich Wolf. I am planning to surprise the kids tomorrow after school with Apple Puzzles (cored & sliced apples ‘glued’ back together with peanut butter). I also really like the ‘Fresh Fruit & Yogurt Cones’ (flat-bottom ice cream cones filled with fresh fruit & drizzled with yogurt). There are some great sandwich ideas in here, too, that I hope to try soon. What’s even better is that most of the recipes in this book are designed so the kids can make them themselves, so I’ll be slating some of these do-it-yourself recipes for dinners over the coming weeks. They’ll like that almost as much as I will!

20130910-153626.jpgLast but not least, I have been browsing Best Lunch Box Ever by Katie Sullivan Morford. Written with school lunches for kids in mind, I found a lot of these recipes of a little more refined palate than my kiddos have. I’m pretty sure I could manage a spin on her ‘Cobb Salad’ though as well as a couple of the cold salads that mine would like. I am definitely planning to try out the ‘Juice Box Applesauce’, fruit salads, ‘Coconut Granola Bark’, & ‘Sour Cherry Oatmeal Bars.’ I’ve heard a lot of people crazy for kale lately, so it’s worth mentioning this book has a recipe for ‘Parmesan Kale Chips’ that looks delish.

We’ve sure had a ton of fun in our kitchen the last couple weeks & it’s bound to get better as time goes on and we add recipes to our repertoire. The kids were quick to point out that the dinosaur & princess cookbooks have other themes in the series: An Astronaut Cookbook, A Ballerina Cookbook, A Football Cookbook, A Superhero Cookbook… and many more. I can’t wait to check them out!

It Goes Without Saying

This weekend my husband & I split the family up for mini-adventures — he a bit farther afield with my son on a father/son camping trip, me at home with my daughter for a mother/daughter slumber party. The boys made the drive to Maquoketa Caves State Park in northeastern Iowa to camp & explore the caves. aldo caveThey had a great time….

576597_10151404530597000_193836823_ngetting to know the wildlife…

aldo cavesAnd hanging in the caves.

My daughter had her last day of school, so when I picked her up at noon I offered to take her out to lunch. She asked if she could have a new book instead.

20130604-080547.jpgAs a mum, there is really no arguing with that counter offer.

We ended up doing a lot of gardening. We started by filling our over-the-rail planters with petunias.

20130604-081102.jpgMy daughter got to pick the colors, so we got pink.  Of course.

Then my girl was over-the-moon to be set free with the hose to ‘clean off’ our deck so I weeded and weeded some more and set up both of our rain  barrels. We rounded out our day with lots of reading & strawberry frozen yogurt sundaes in bed.20130604-080538.jpg

My girl really LOVES to read. And I will say she was very excited to get to sleep in the big bed with me. I was reminded that not only does she like to snuggle even more than the dog, she snores and talks in her sleep. Somehow this 40lb person took up 3/4 of a queen sized bed & woke me out of a dead sleep at 3am  with her talking. It’s all worth it though. She’s pretty fantastic.

It was a happy homecoming when the boys returned, tired and bearing lots of laundry from their spelunking expeditions. We celebrated being freshly reunited by sitting down to a very basic, but filling spaghetti dinner. There is nothing like being apart — even for just a couple days — to make the simple act of being together feel extra special. I am grateful for my little family, the time we have to spend together, the adventures we get to have both near & far, and the bonds we share. It goes without saying, but sometimes saying it is important, too.