Friday, September 28, 2012

these boys love to ham it up!

These two have been hammin' it up lately...who I am kidding? They are always hammin' it up! Each day, Clay and I find ourselves laughing and smiling at their little antics, words and expressions. It seriously seems to get funnier by the day. I am not quite sure why, but these last 7, 8, 9 months or so, I find myself just itching to not miss a second with these guys. They are growing up so big so fast!! It's like I am missing them already and they are not even gone. Ridiculous, right?
We have been garage sale-in it this week...selling, not buying. :) Our street has been one big variety store of deals! I am not used to holding garage sales on weekdays, but I quickly found out after moving to Minnesota that Thursday's are the biggest and best days for yard sales in this state. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do!" Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week, we, along with 4 other neighbors, are combining forces and getting rid of stuff!!!! It feels great! This is my 3rd or 4th garage sale to participate in this year; I actually did not have a lot of items left to sale in this one, but I thought why not? I was excited today when I sold enough to pay for an entire grocery trip for us!! (Well, when I say excited, I mean I squealed and hugged my neighbor, jumped up and down a few times and danced a slight jig.) And, while the kids are napping in the afternoon, I am steadily going through paper stuff and throwing out, so I am killing two birds with one stone. Love it! Happy Happy girl!

Cooper: after naptime.
Sunglasses on upside down? Check.
"Moo. Moo!" book? ("Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can you?" by Dr. Seuss) Check.
"B"? (aka paci) Check.
"Kee Kee"? (aka blankie) Check.
Goldfish? Check.
Happy Boy? Check. Check.
 LOVE these boys so much!!! They both came in for the night with brown, dirty toes and fingers, smudges on their noses and sticky marshmallow on their hands...which was followed with a warm shower, pj's and storytime. These two happy little tots fell fast asleep I am sure dreaming of all the fun adventures they plan on having with the neighbors and all the "cool stuff" tomorrow. Now it is off to bed for me! My doors will be open bright and early at 7am! :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Recipe: Trevor's Chicken

 Trevor's Chicken
For some time now, I have been wanting to share this favorite recipe of our family's as it truly always makes everyone in our family smile. I hesitated because I could never seem to get a decent picture of the meal. To this novice photographer, it is a seemingly difficult meal to photograph. (And it does not help when you continuously forget to snap a photo before you start eating the mouthwatering meal every...single...time.) :)  But seriously, each time we fix this, our plates are cleaned within minutes. We like good, hearty protein-filled meals at our house; this tops our protein-packed dinner recipe list! The pictures do not do the rich flavor justice, but basically what you are looking at in picture #2 is chicken topped with bbq sauce, bacon and cheese. The first picture shows the salsa on top of the cheese. (well, what was left of it!!)
4 boneless chicken breasts
8 oz Monterey Jack cheese
4 slices of bacon (cooked)
Barbecue sauce, 2 cups

Grill chicken breast with salt, pepper and barbecue sauce. Top with cooked bacon and cheese. Grill under broiler oven. Top with salsa and serve.

This recipe came from a cookbook my mom sent me last year after I started working and was looking for "5 ingredients and fewer" type meals. It's a Take Five Cookbook. She had it in her collection and was not really using it anymore...thanks mom!! I actually have not tried any other recipes from this little book, but if they are half as good as "Trevor's Chicken" I know we will enjoy them!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Looking back: Duluth trip 2008

While on the subject of Duluth, Minnesota, I thought I would share a few pictures from our 2008 trip. Parker was just 8 months old when we took our first trip up to these Northern parts of the state. (Seeing these pictures of my baby make me smile!) Two of Clay's sisters were in town when the weekend trip was planned. Not having lived in Minnesota very long, we wanted to explore and do something fresh and new! Many recommendations were made by Minnesotan friends for Duluth, so off we went! I remember it being quite chilly for early August...quite chillier than our current climate just 3 hours south.

We had such a great time though. Our trip started Friday when we left the cities for Duluth. We actually had dinner at Top of the Harbor that evening (we ate like kings!! Thanks Nana and Poppie for that delicious dinner! ;))

Saturday we enjoyed breakfast out on the patio of the Canal Park Lodge and then left for the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad Tour. One of my favorite memories from this trip was watching Parker's sweet expression throughout the whole ride. He was all smiles with his chubby little hands and face pressed to the window in total curiousity and excitement. Besides taking pictures of our little man, we were able to get a few breathtaking shots of the landscape.
Fun Information on the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad History:

The original Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad was the first railroad into Duluth. After several years of surveying, preparation and laying track, the first train traveling from St Paul arrived in Duluth 11:30 PM, August 1, 1870.

The advent of this rail link was considered the most important event in the history of the state of Minnesota as well as in the railroad development of the country. The 154 miles of track connected the head of navigation on Lake Superior with the head of navigation on the Mississippi River. This opened up a viable means to transport goods to Lake Superior for shipping to Eastern markets.

The section of track from Thomson to Fond du Lac, known as the skally line followed the St Louis River through Jay Cooke Park. This portion of the original track had uneven terrain, a steep and long (nine mile) grade and high wooden trestles. These trestles were difficult to maintain and posed a fire threat due to the wood burning locomotives of the day. The Duluth Short Line Railway built an alternate route into Duluth in 1888 largely following the current Munger Trail eliminating the dangers if the skally line.

The LS&M became the St Paul & Duluth Railway and later a part of the Northern Pacific Railway which constructed railroad to the West bringing transcontinental shipment of goods to Duluth.

The present Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad was originated in 1980 by a group of volunteers from the Lake Superior Transportation Club, taking the name of Duluth’s first railroad and using a portion of the original track along the St Louis River for the current tourist excursion train.

Text from website.

Following the Railroad tour and lunch, we skipped over to Glensheen Manshion for an afternoon tour. I did not get many pictures from this venture, but we found the tour quite fascinating and worth the time! It has amazing history behind it.

The Historic Congdon Estate was built during the years 1905 through 1908 for Chester and Clara Congdon. It is a 39 room mansion, 7.6 acre estate that includes a museum shop, a carriage house, a boat house, formal gardens and a lakeview terrace. If you are feeling a need for a cup of coffee and some reading, I would encourage you to take some time to peruse the family site.

While in the area, we also toured the Canal Park Pier and Boardwalk each day. It was so calming to sit on the benches and watch the ships come in. There is something theraputic about lighthouses too; I think I could stare at them for hours and be quite happy.
Our last day, Sunday, we opted for a Vista Fleet Cruise, which everyone enjoyed. If one is interested in seeing the spectacular activity and scenery of this busy harbor, I do not believe there is a better way to do it than through one of the Vista Fleet Cruises. They offer a variety of cruises that you can be sure will leave you knowing more about this hard-working town when you depart than you could ever imagine.

Before leaving for the cities, we had to do some quick boardwalk shopping and stop for an ice cream treat! Oh, and we rode across the bridge; within minutes we could say hello to Wisconsin...and then goodbye again! Such a fun excursion! So....I guess what I am saying here is if you get the chance, GO TO DULUTH!!! Rest assured we will be going again and everyone will get to see pictures and hear of our trip, so why not tag along with us?! It could be a fun adventure! :)

To see the quick mini album I put together about the trip, click here.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the residents and workers of Duluth with the recent flooding that occurred. (It was hard to fathom that literally days after our most recent departure, the entire town was flooded.) Duluth has stood the test of time and I know that the hard-working residents will overcome this and restore it to its infamous nature as once before.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rassie's visit in June

Clay and I always LOVE when family comes to stay for a cherished visit. When I called my mom just after the move and said, "So when are you coming to visit?" and we decided on a June date, I was ecstatic. Almost a month to the day after our move, my mom flew into the cities. I could not wait to take her to our already favorite nearby parks and show her the glistening lakes in the late afternoon.
We had a picnic at the park early one evening: Peppers on the coleman, hamburgers smokin' on the park grill, kids laughing on the swing as their Rassie pushed them as high as she felt she safely could :), ants on a log for appetizers, a beautiful sunset right on the lake, and then wrapping up the non-traditional chilly summer evening with smores at the homestead. me some summer days.
Coats in June?! Only in Minnesota. Luckily, we were not far from home that evening so that I could run in and grab our coats. It actually got quite chilly that particular evening...go figure!

Amongst the travels to the North Shores region, Rassie spent amazing quality time with her two grandsons, helped me tremendously with organization around the home, and even provided Clay and me with a couple of date nights.

It was a joy to get together at Maynards with several friends from church one night. A night out for just the grown-ups? I'll take it! :)

Clay and I also ventured downtown for a special date night at Fogo de Chao. Since he and I only currently get about 2-3 date nights a year (well, maybe 4 some years) ;) we decided to splurge. No regrets in this decision. Yum and extra yum!

On the way home, I could not help but snatch a photo of the view of Minneapolis.

Mama, thank you soooooo much for coming to stay with us this summer for two whole weeks!!! We loved every minute of it! You were sweet to spoil us the way you did...and you saved me from going crazy with several of my house projects!! Thank you for understanding me and accepting me for my crazy, go-go-go self. :) I love you with all my heart always!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gooseberry Falls

Following a quick, curbside lunch of beef jerkey, granola bars and bananas, we drove down the road to Gooseberry Falls.

What used to serve as an area for logging as well as commercial and recreational fishing, was authorized for preservation in 1933. Campgrounds, trails and picnic areas, stone and log buildings were all set up at Gooseberry Falls after the North Shore tourism became more popular through the early to mid 20th century. The series of rushing waterfalls that move through eroded basalt lava and flows out into Lake Superior, is considered the "true centerpiece of the park." 

Clay and I were discussing several weeks ago how we cannot imagine what the falls look like now, after the recent flooding of Duluth and surounding areas. Areas that we walked just days before, would now be completely unrecognizable to the same eye. Click here to see pictures of the Lower, Middle and Upper falls after the June 20 flooding.

We enjoyed our one and a half hour jaunt to see the trio of waterfalls, all the while keeping a close hold on our boys and wishing for more time for exploration at this state park. As we headed away from the falls and back to our starting point, we stopped to let the boys play in a interesting cave by the riverbank. I think this, by far, topped as "coolest attraction at Gooseberry Park" for our little men. Parker and Cooper both happily explored the small open area as much as our freedom for them allowed.

As mentioned before, the ride back towards downtown Duluth proved to be as photo-worthy as the drive up old Highway 61. After a little pleading, dear hubby even agreed to pull the car over a few times so I could get out and capture some landmarks that made me smile.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Split Rock Lighthouse - "Before GPS there was a really Big Light"

The following day we awoke bright and early to drive Old Highway 61 to Split Rock Lighthouse. Every mile of the scenic North Shore Drive was breathtaking. I love this description of the Scenic Drive in the 2012 Duluth tourism book: "Beginning at Canal Park in Duluth, Minnesota's North Shore Scenic Drive is a journey through an unspoiled wilderness that kisses the sweeping shoreline of the world's largest freshwater lake. The breathtaking cliffs and beaches of Lake Superior's beautiful North Shore are bordered by the Sawtooth Mountains and thousands of acres of pine, aspen and birch trees. Rivers and streams make their rocky way to the lake, forging dazzling waterfalls along the way. Lighthouses recall the awesome power of the mighty lake, and dozens of trails allow visitors to experience the North Shore's natural beauty up close. Friendly communities are home to cultural and historic museums and exhibits, as well as unique shopping, dining and lodging. You may wish to drive slowly and stop often, as the North Shore Scenic Drive reaches its destination at Canadian Border all too soon!"

The fun part was knowing that after our tours of Split Rock and Gooseberry Falls, we would get to enjoy the drive all over again on the way back!

One of Minnesota's best known landmarks, Split Rock Lighthouse, once a beacon of safety for passing ships is now an icon for travelers. This century-old light sits on a 130-foot cliff at Superior's edge. "Born on the backs of the 29 ships damaged during the infamous storm of November 1905, the light was in use until 1969, when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places."

Admission to the lighthouse can be used for a 45-minute guided tour or to explore on your own. The 25-acre site includes the original brick Split Rock Light, fog-signal building, keeper's quarters and ruins of the tramway. We opted for the guided tour with Cooper in the backpack carrier and Parker holding Rassie's hand.

A favorite for all of us was hiking down to the cobblestone beach for the classic photo of the lighthouse.

And hike to get down to the beach, we did!

We all agreed it was worth it.

Both boys jumped at the chance to play in, climb on, and throw the rocks.

We chose to take a different path on the way back up to the lighthouse. (The steps were fine, but I think we chose wisely on the way in by opting the lengthier scenic view that the wooded trail held.)

Apparantly, it was too lengthy of a trek...

These two were going back and forth between happily walking, running and riding on daddy's shoulders all the way back to the Visitor's Center.