Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wisdom of an 8 year old and other stuff

I have found it interesting to see how the dynamics in our house change when a couple of additional friends get added to the mix. The pairing off sometimes isolates one child but the next minute it changes again and a different pairing off occurs.

During a pairing off of Kippy & Madi, I was able to interest KZ in a little project. First, I have many t-shirts that I have gained from participating in various races. I seldom wear any of these because they are always man-shirts.... totally square, boxy and too big. I saw a quick easy project to reconstruct a t-shirt using a rotary cutter. I cut the neckline ribbing, excess sleeve and length from the tee. Then cut that excess into 1 inch strips and pulled on the fabric causing the strips to roll into thick strings. KZ watched intently during this process. I asked if she wanted to make a bracelet and she quickly said yes. I got my stash of pony beads and we started adding a few beads to the t-shirt strings. KZ gravitated to the glittery pony beads. We finished them off by tying and wrapping. The stretchy fabric easily fits over the hand and made a cool looking casual bracelet. Kippy & Madi wanted in on the action, and the 4 of us came up with some quick, fun, creations. Everyone with their own bead combination. Best use of a racing T yet.
KZ later followed me out to the garden and was helping me harvest an abundance of tomatoes. She was busy chatting away as I cleared out a lot of dead branches from a few plants that had gotten blown over. We also picked several green tomatoes which had fallen off of the vines in the same wind storm. As we were working, a hummingbird came and hovered near our heads for an extended period of time. KZ exclaimed, "I have never seen a hummingbird up close like this!" She happily helped me pick cucumbers, zucchini and some flowers too. On the second trip into the house with our harvest, she said to me, "This may sound strange, but I think these tomatoes would look nice displayed in a big bowl."

Not strange at all, Miss KZ, you are right. The tomatoes look wonderful arranged in a big bowl.

I'm off to see what else my little girl club can do today.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kayak Adventure on the Mississippi

Earlier this summer I snagged a Groupon deal for an 8 mile canoe trip for the family on the Mississippi River for half price. The origin of the afternoon trip was in Clear Water, MN through a company called Clear Waters Outfitting Company.
We originally scheduled to go on the trip August 6th; however, gusty winds and rain caused us to cancel. We were able to reschedule for Saturday, August 20th, but the only catch was there were no canoes available, so we chose the tandem kayaks instead.
After watching a safety video, we were given maps, got fitted for lifejackets and loaded up in our kayaks. Abby wanted to paddle with Steve & Kippy wanted to be with me. The weather was a little cool, but very pleasant. The partnership in our respective kayaks worked out very well. Steve & Abby were definitely faster than Kippy & me.
If you have ever kayaked before, then you know the steering is done by the paddler in the back, and the front paddler sets the pace with the rear paddler matching the strokes. We brought along waters and some mixed nuts & dried fruit for snacks.
It was surprising how quick the current in the river was moving. We had a slight breeze to our backs, so with that plus the current, we didn't have to paddle extremely hard to move along. We pretty much had the river to ourselves which was so peaceful. There were several dragonflies which would hitch rides between our two kayaks.

We sang songs and played a couple of word games. One song we tried to sing was from the Disney Pocahontas movie, "Just Around The River Bend..." but we were a complete fail because "Just Around the River Bend" was the only part of the song we could remember!

A big discussion surrounded what was the name of the raccoon in the movie. Do you know? None of us were 100% sure. Steve thought it was Reeko and I thought it was Teeko. Once we got on dry land, we contacted the resident Disney expert (Kristy Sell) and found out the correct name was Meeko. We all had quite a laugh over that.
In the end, it only took us 2 hours to travel the 8 miles to the pick-up spot. No one over-turned, attitudes were great and we all gave the experience a thumbs up. Next time, I think we will pack a lunch so we can pull off onto one of the islands and have a picnic to make the adventure last longer.
We highly recommend giving it a try!

Our most memorable rodeo yet!

We are so lucky to have a professional PRCA rodeo to attend in our area each August at the Red Horse Rance Arena. The entertainment is top quality and the outdoor arena is fantastic. This year (August 12), we made sure we went very early so we could get our chairs set up in a prime location. In this arena, there are bleachers on the west side only and the east side is terraced so people bring their own chairs and blankets to sit back and enjoy the show. Of course, the earlier you are, the better placement you have for your chairs. The gates opened at 5:30 PM and we were first in line and got our favorite seat locations so we could see the saddle broncs, bareback and bull riding up close. Steve had checked the weather and we knew we were going to get some rain. In anticipation, we brought rain jackets, ponchos & umbrellas. This was not our first rodeo, folks! We have been rained on before in previous years.

The opening of the rodeo is the best ever with the flags and the gorgeous horses. There is a very meaningful recognition for all the past and current armed service members, a blessing for all cowboys, cowgirls and livestock and finally a beautiful sung National Anthem. It brings tears to my eyes every single time.
The first event was bareback bronc riding. (Don't judge the pictures too harshly as they come from my cellphone.) There are a few things to note in this picture. First of all, cowboy & horse are magnificent! Second, there are some rather dark skies in the back ground. Third, there is a rather large white tent in the background and one small tent canopy to the right of it.

Just as the first rider in the first event finished, an enormous gust of wind lifted the large tent straight up in the air! A huge amount of dirt, along with the aluminum tent legs and canvas began spiraling toward us. I stood straight up, screamed "Girls! Get down." and lunged for them, tucking them under my body as best as I could. Steve flopped down on top of us all. The dirt and wind blasted us. Our chairs went flying. And within less than 30 seconds it was over. We sat up and made sure everyone was ok. Abby had dirt in her eyes, I had dirt in my mouth and stuck to my lipgloss. Steve's Harley hat was MIA, but Kippy found it for him 30 feet from where we were sitting. People were scrambling to get their belongings and get out of dodge.
And here is where the large white tent landed. Right on top of the livestock pens. None of the animals were hurt. None of the audience members were hurt. None of the cowboys & cowgirls were hurt. It was amazing how the protection from the opening prayer kept us all safe.

The rodeo continued on. And a few hardy people stayed including us. We got our chairs back together and our rain gear on & umbrellas out because it started to rain. And rain.
And rain. Ponchos were used to try to keep our legs dry. Kippy even tied one of Steve's extra rain jackets around her legs.
We tried everything to stay dry, but the buckets of rain just kept coming and we laughed about how wet we were getting.
What I like about this picture is you can see the few stragglers in the VIP boardwalk section and also see how muddy the arena became. Also, note: no white canopies in the background. The rain never slowed down the rodeo at all. The livestock, cowboys and cowgirls continued to work hard. It really was a great time.

Three hours later, when it was time to go we loaded up our soggy chairs and trudged back to the parking lot. However, the grass parking lot was now a dark swampy mess. We were sinking down into muddy ruts up to our ankles. I almost lost one of my flip flops. When we reached our vehicle (Honda Accord), we could already see many cars were stuck in the muddy mess. Never have I wanted a 4 wheel drive pickup truck more in my life! Steve started out driving, but the car quickly spun out in the mud. Steve had me switch and drive while he got out to push the car. I should also note Steve was the only smart family member to be wearing boots instead of flip flops. Unfortunately, our car was really stuck. From out of nowhere, another guy showed up beside Steve & they were able to push our car backwards and got it unstuck. Slowly we tried to navigate. Several additional times, the car spun out in the mud and Steve would just keep pushing to get us out. The girls were silent in the backseat as this process was repeated time and time again. Eventually, after almost 25 minutes, we navigated up the side of the ditch and made it to the road. The car was covered in mud. Our feet & lower pants were filthy. My only regret is that I didn't get any pictures of the whole muddy mess, but I was too stressed out trying to get the vehicle out! Ultimately, we prevailed and I think 2011 will be the most memorable rodeo for our whole family.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A t-shirt crafty

Abby & I decided to do a craft together today. I got the idea from a craft website called We both had a few t-shirts that we weren't afraid to ruin, so we plunged in.

I didn't want to hand cut any letters so I used my cricut cutter. At first I cut the design out on wax paper and tried to iron the design onto the t-shirt, but the wax paper I used wouldn't stick. Must have been doing something wrong, so back to the drawing board. Next I cut the design out using thick, white card stock. I thought this would be thick enough to spray the bleach solution on, but it wasn't as you will soon see.
First I inserted cardboard into the t-shirt. In this case, it was a flattened out Kashi cereal box (my favorite cereal). I layed out the design on the t-shirt. I used a little bit of glue stick to get the paper to adhere to the t-shirt fabric.

I carried the project out into the garage and sprayed it down with the bleach solution.
It was a mix of 50% water and 50% bleach. I put it in this handy-dandy Fabreze container, which I so carefully relabeled. bahahahaha

Abby and I waited for the magic to begin. However, I quickly found out that I had used too much spray and soaked the white cardstock. This caused the design to be almost totally washed out.
This is the end product after rinsing thoroughly and drying. You can faintly see "power" but that is about it. So back to the drawing board.
My next thought was that I need something that would stick better to the t-shirt. I found some 3 inch wide painters tape.
I ran it through the Cricut and it worked pretty well, with the exception of one little tear. I wasn't phased at all by that since I figured it would add to the imperfect look of the tee.

Again, I sandwiched cardboard inside the tee, carefully pealed off letters & flourishes and placed them on the tee. I sprayed the bleach solution LIGHTLY. Waited a few minutes, sprayed lightly again. We were beginning to see color change and I was nervous about leaving the solution on too long. Abby & I debated about if it was time to rinse out the shirt or not. I couldn't wait. I got anxious, grabbed the shirt and plunged it in a sink full of cold water.

After drying the shirt, I was so pleased! This time it turned out just right!

All the details showed up and I love that this old tee has a new life, along with reinforcing my 2011 New Years Theme of "Power". Hurray.

Next it was Abby's turn. Abby benefited from my previous mistakes. She used very thick cardboard to cut out her dinosaur shape that she hand drew. She also cut out her letters using the Cricut from the painters tape, since that proved to be the right medium for this project.
She used the bleach solution very lightly and watched carefully for signs of color change. Once she was happy with the look, we thoroughly rinsed the shirt and dried it.

I love her design and the results. So very "Abby".
Another bonus...this project was absolutely FREE. No costs involved since we just used old tee's and supplies we had on hand. Can't beat that!!
FYI - Abby told me that "rawr" means "I love you" in dinosaur language.
RAWR, back, Miss Abby!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Camping at Itasca

It is amazing how much coordinating and packing were required in order for two families to be able to camp at Itasca State Park. The planning has been in the works since last year and then in July, when the MN State Parks shut down because of budget problems, we thought our plans were going to have to wait until 2012. Luckily, with some intense coordination, we were able to get a couple of days to work out and we are ever so glad we did!
Steve ended up getting a carrier for the roof of the van so we could have some moving around room in our vehicle and actually fit more than our usual 4. The bike rack was able to hold our 4 bikes, but it took us almost a half of a day just to get our gear organized. I am ashamed to admit that it had been 2 years since we had even set up our tent.
We were able to get adjoining sites and set up three tents for our group of 4 adults, 6 kids and 1 dog. Kippy & Madi had the smallest tent and they also claimed Bella as their bunkmate. Those three were happy campers to be together. Next we had a large tent for Miranda, Abby, Dani & Kami. The adults stayed together in the largest tent complete with two queen sized air-mattresses, but I'm thinking Derek would say theirs was mostly an airless mattress. Ha!

As soon as we had the campsite set up and our bellies filled with some excellent grilled brats and dogs, we headed to the Mississippi headwaters.  Since it was nearly 7:00 PM, on Sunday, August 14th, we practically had the entire place to ourselves.  Madi, Kami & Kippy had their swimsuits on and immediately decided to get wet.

One of the funniest experiences was watching Kippy & Madi come up with games to play with their swim towels and the stone pillars.  Here they are showing off their "guns", which eventually morphed (as games tend to do) into them putting on a show in unison with their best muscle moves, then morphed into balling up one of the towels, tossing it back and forth like a hot potato and finally playing keep away.

Unfortunately, there was one little snag in the game playing which occurred when Madi tried to throw her shorts up over the beam and got them stuck.  The dads were called in to help out and Steve ended up using a towel to snag the shorts and save the day.  Campfire s'mores finished out our fun day or so we thought...

Just when we finally we all tucked into our respective tents and sleeping bags, a gang of raccoons came to visit.  Soon they had finessed the lid off of our Rubbermaid dry food container and were fighting viciously over the loot they had discovered.  Derek and Steve had to go out and chase 4 raccoons away, but not before they made off with a bag of crackers and a sack of buns.  We discovered in the morning that their dirty little paws had tried and tried to open the cooler as well.  Apparently they wanted more to go with the buns and crackers.  Luckily, those clever buggers couldn't pop the tight fitting top off of the cooler.  The Huberts were more prepared for the opportunistic predators and kept all of their food safely locked in their van.  We will be smarter next time (I hope).

Monday, August 15th was our activity day.  After picking out 6 bikes at the rental for the Huberts, we hit the trail.  I got to be the line leader while Steve & Derek picked up the monkey tail.  I totally had an ulterior motive for being in front - it was so I wouldn't have to listen to any crabbing and fussing!  The route we took was rather challenging for some of the oldest kids (think teens), but Dani and Madi were more than willing to keep the speed going with me!  The bonus of having a mix of 6 kids is that they can encourage one another and the Parental Units can tease and laugh at them all.  tee, hee

I can't recall how many miles we ended up going, but by the time we hiked to the Fire Tower, the kids were seriously starving, full of bug bites and not very joyful.  Luckily, the Parental Units didn't care at all about the crab-fest.  We paid a nice lady to use up almost all of her bug rub and then proceeded to climb the tower. Heather made her maiden voyage to the top of the tower.  She was thrilled and it encouraged Kami to give it a try as well and they were successful!  WTG, Girls!!

After getting back to camp and getting the blood sugar back up for the tired little campers, we went back to the Headwaters for some cooling off.  It was a such a wonderful time and I hope we can do it again next summer without having to plan for two years!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The end of the swingset era

leads to the beginning of a bountiful harvest.

When we moved to Fergus Falls in the Fall of 2002, one of the first things we did the following spring, was to put up a swingset for the girls.  At that time, they were ages 2 and 5.  My dad and my younger brother helped with the construction and it was the place to be in the back yard for years.  In fact, my nephew, Nixin referred to the swingset as "The Park."
Time passed and the lure of the swingset faded. Now as Abby is 14, she has no use for it and even Angelique (although 10) doesn't spend much time on it. I really wanted to expand our garden and move it to a location which got more sun. At first, Angelique was hesitant to give up the swingset, but once Steve promised to hang two swings on the oak tree in the corner of our lot, she gave her consent.
So bye-bye swingset.  The slide got a new life at another home after we put it at the end of our driveway as a free-give-away.  Steve created two new 10x12 raised gardens.  One in the former swing set location (much sunnier) and one in the original garden location.
Angelique was my assistant and we carefully planned out our plantings.  Box number 1 was filled with tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, basil and squash (plus some pretty flowers).

Box number 2 had beans, ornamental corn, dill, chives, peas, cucumbers and onions.  The raised beds were easy to keep weeded and the soil was rich, giving us lots of fresh delicious veggies.  Angelique definitely appreciates the process of planting, watering, weeding and harvesting.  I have to say, that Abby just isn't much of an outdoor girl, although she likes the results!

Friday, August 5, 2011

It don't mean a thing...

if it aint got that SWING....

We seriously had a fabulous time last Saturday (July 30th) at Lake Ida with the Matherns' and Hansens' jumping off a platform and swinging into the water. Here is Kippy in my version of a stop-action photo sequence.
And it wasn't just the kids who were swinging. Steve also took several trips into the water.

Our Godchild, Brac, was an expert on the rope swing. Just look at his form!

I absolutely couldn't miss out on the fun either. You Tarzan, me JANE!!!

I love this sequence of Denise on the rope swing because it looks like she is running across the water. Plus her form is spot on!

There were 6 adults and 6 kids and every single one of us took at least one turn swinging. Some landing better than others (right Tracy?), but hey - it was great fun to act like a kid again!