Friday, September 30, 2016

Vacation Recap, part 2: Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

 Last week, Ethan picked out a book on Wyoming from the library.  He was so excited to look inside and read about all the places we ventured on our adventure this past summer.  So, I thought that now would be a good time to finish this blog post.  With things getting super busy at the beginning of the school year, I almost forgot about this one!  Oops!  You can read about the first half of our adventure over here.

I left off with us leaving Devil's Tower.  From there we headed to my Grandma's house is Worland.  To get there we had to drive through some of the most beautiful areas.  Wyoming is so much more than grassy prairies and filled with diverse rock formations and beautiful mountain ranges.  This day of driving was a long day, filled with roadside peeing (thank goodness for having boys!), and car activities.  When we reached Powder Pass, we got out to play for a few minutes.  There was still snow up there and the kids came really close to running and playing in it before we continued on our trek. 

We even got to drive through the tiny town of Ten Sleep.  I have some super fond memories of this cozy little town where my great grandmother lived.  It was fun sharing some of these memories with the kids and Jon.  The town my grandma lives is just a short drive from Ten Sleep and the kids could not wait to see everyone.  They had so much fun playing with their cousin George the week before and were so excited to be reunited. . . even if just for 24 hours!  There were soccer games in the yard and nerf gun wars and even lego playing.  These boys had a blast while the adults hung out on the porch and chatted.
The next afternoon, we headed toward Cody for some more adventuring.  From this point on we stayed with my parents in their camper as they worked their way towards Oregon.  Ethan got to help put the camper up and he thought that was the coolest.  We stayed at some pretty cool campgrounds and I will put the links at the end of the post.  Our night in Cody was also Father's Day, so we headed out to eat at The Irma, because who doesn't want to eat at Buffalo Bill's restaurant?!  Jon even got a rootbeer which made his Father's Day wish come true (he only wanted a yummy rootbeer!).  We also raided Walmart for groceries for the next few days and then on to the Rodeo.  Cody has a really cool rodeo that happens every single night and the kids loved it! 

After grabbing a latte from one of the local shops the next morning, we started our trek into Yellowstone.  Cody is a couple of hours from the park entrance and we headed straight there.  We didn't stop until we got to Yosemite Lake and it was breathtaking.  It was one of my favorite parts of the park.  The steam coming from the ground comes from fissures.  We also stopped at the Mud Pots and then to Fishing Bridge to have lunch and get Ethan his Junior Ranger book.  The books here cost $5, but are really well done and have color pages. 

We then headed into West Yellowstone, where we were reunited with the camper, my parents, and took some time to rest.  Our campground had a fun little park for the kids to play and Ethan loved buying ice cream at the campground store.  That night, we drove up to Earthquake Lake to see the craziness of an Earthquake that took place when my mom was a kid.  You can read about it here.

The next morning, we woke up super early to head to the Old Faithful Inn for breakfast and see Old Faithful go off.  It was beautiful and we had fun.  The food and service were not that great, so I would only recommend eating there to say you did.  The kids had a blast exploring the area and going to the second floor balcony.  My favorite part was Weston screaming, "It's Amazing!"

The next day, we got up super early (because we found that if we got anywhere later than 10am, it was too crowded to see anything and no parking).  We made it to Mammoth Springs and explored the area, found souvenirs, lunch and the Roosevelt Arch.  It was so much fun!

We left early the next morning, because we really wanted to see the Grand Prismatic Springs and it was always too crowded.  We were so glad we went early, because it was so beautiful!  It was a great finale of our time in Yellowstone.  
From Yellowstone, we headed into the Grand Tetons.  This is one of my favorite places and is probably what I was most excited to show Jon.  It is breathtakingly beautiful, peaceful, and there's this wonderful little town called Jackson Hole.  We stayed with my parents here, also, in the coolest campground outside of town.  Someday, Jon and I are going to go back without the kids and stay in their cute tiny cabins!  We even were able to add a moose to our animal siting list!

We decided to not have Ethan do the Jr. Ranger program here, because we didn't spend a lot of time in the park.  The one place I knew I wanted to show Jon was this church that sits just inside the park, not far from Jackson Hole.  The church faces the Grand Tetons and all I can think of is singing praises to God while looking up at this large, majestic mountains. It is utterly breathtaking! How lucky those early settlers were to be able to attend church here each week.

We explored what we could and then headed into town to set up camp, rest, and head to dinner at the Circle J Ranch.  This was my second time and I was so glad that the kids were old enough to enjoy it.  Weston was a little restless, but it had been a long day and he was tired.  Ethan laughed at the jokes and enjoyed the music and the food!

The next day, we spent some time shopping and eating some local fare.  My favorite store is this amazing little shop of handmade goodness, called Made.  So many super fun things! 

We ended our last night with a walk over the Snake River, seeing a moose, and eating leftovers in my parent's camper.  After two weeks of traveling, we were excited to hit the road the next morning and head to Salt Lake for our return flight to San Francisco.  We had a wonderful adventure and can't wait to plan our next one!  The kids are already making lists of what they want to do.  I love that they love traveling. . . It makes my heart so happy!

If you have any questions about our trip feel free to comment!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Breakfast on the Go: Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Pancake Sticks

I am not really a morning person.  Someone needs to tell my boys that.  Unfortunately, during the school year, I have to get up and get ready, and so do my kids.  I like to stay in bed until the last possible moment. Which means, being the night owl that I am, I make sure everything for the boys is ready for them and they just do it (it's awesome).  But, they need to eat a good solid breakfast and most mornings I just don't have time to make anything.  Thankfully, a few years ago, I talked my sweet husband into buying this pan on one of our trips to San Francisco. He was skeptical, but I have proven it's usefulness since we brought it home.  I got mine at Crate and Barrel, but I don't think they sell them there anymore (sad face). 

This pan is a life saver!  I try make a batch every week or so and keep them in the freezer.  It works well with homemade, like the recipe I'm about to share with you, as well as box mix pancakes.  I usually bake them for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees.  In the mornings, we just zap a few of them in the microwave and dip them in maple syrup and call it breakfast.  Easy Peasy! 

One of my favorite things about Facebook are the Tasty videos and the Chew clips.  When I saw this recipe from The Chew, I knew we had to make them.  They instantly became the boys favorite pancakes and we added Weston's chocolate chips to make them soy free. Because the pancakes are baked at a hot enough temperature, it helps the buttermilk not affect our dairy allergies.  I will probably be making these again very soon!   

Happy Baking!  

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from the Chew

1 1/4 cup flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 1/4 cup buttermilk*
1/2 stick butter, melted and slightly cooled
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

* I most often do not have buttermilk lying around, and find it really effective to add a tablespoon of vinegar into my milk and let it sit.  After a few minutes, instant buttermilk.  It's quick, it's easy, and it works!

Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, egg, buttermilk, and butter in a bowl.  I usually just use a fork until it looks all combined and just a little lumpy.  Make pancakes like normal, or grease your pancake stick pan and fill half full.  Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350.  Let sit for a few minutes, then cool on a wire rack.  Eat or flash freeze for a couple of hours and then transfer to a freezer bag for a later date.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday Favorites: Suriving the waiting game

I like to be prepared.  I try to have baby wipes in the car, regardless of the fact that nobody is in diapers anymore.  Snacks are a must have.  Along with something for them to do. . . I call them boredom busters.  I know that allowing kids an opportunity for boredom is important.  It's when creativity really comes alive.  However, I know that if that boredom appears when you aren't at home and you need them to be contained, you end up miserable and with someone in tears (like me. . . ha ha!).   I have been unprepared before.  It is not pretty.  We are all miserable.  I'm sure we've all been there. 

Last night marked Ethan's first soccer practice.  This week has been kind of crazy, but I grabbed a few things for Weston to do for the hour we were at the field, threw them in his activity bag I made him a few years ago, and we headed out.  Last night, there was a beautiful, cool breeze and we found a shady spot and set up camp.  Weston was kind of tired (kindergarten is exhausting!) and so he just sat next to me playing memory and coloring.  Never once was their a complaint.  We just laid there and worked on our stuff.  It may have been my favorite part of the day!  

I really believe that boredom striking when we are playing the waiting game is just horrible for everyone.  And, made worse when it's the end of the day and everyone is pooped.  The combination of exhaustion, hunger, and nothing to do just can be a bad thing in the right setting.  Soccer practice for Ethan lies at a rough time. . . dinner (the time of day, where my kids sometimes turn into monsters. . . please tell me I'm not alone?!?!?).  But, really, it's once a week and we make do because it's fun we have to practice sometime and any later just won't work.  

We take these bags on small road trips, to doctor appointments, in the car.  Basically, anywhere there is a possibility to play the "waiting game" where any form of melt down may occur, I try to bring an activity bag. We don't bring a lot of things, because it needs to be light enough a 5 year old can carry it.   So here are my 5 favorite things to put in our grab and go activity bag:

1.  Game - Any game will do.  Yesterday we brought along Travel Memory.  We also sometimes stick Spot it, Jr., Uno Jr., or more recently the card game version of Eye Found It.  

2.  Coloring Book and Crayons/Markers/Colored Pencils - If you pack one to keep in the car, do NOT pack crayons. . . they will melt.  My favorite coloring tools for on the go are Crayola (of course!) Twistable Colored Pencils and Crayola Pipsqueak markers.  I usually try to have a coloring book for something they are excited about right now (Star Wars, Avengers, Miles from Tomorrowland)

3.  A book to read.  I usually throw a picture book or two into the bag and if my oldest is going to be waiting, he usually grabs his latest chapter book adventure.  There is also a Highlights magazine with stories and hidden pictures to look at.

4. Something hands on.  We often bring these when we are on the go.  They keep the kids busy in restaurants and other "waiting game" opportunities.  My mom also gave us some foam pattern blocks which are also super fun to have on the go.  We don't usually bring Legos, because the pieces are too small and they will get lost.  But, we have brought a freezer bag with some dulpos places and that works, too.  

5.   A device of some sort.  A lot of times, we grab the kids Leapsters and throw those in the bag, and other times we grab the Ipad.  It really depends on the situation and how long we are waiting.  I will note that sometimes it's hard to see the screen if you are outside and it's really bright.  

Also, when we are playing the "waiting game" outside (like soccer practice), we bring out blanket out and lay on it.  We can spread out and be comfortable.  We have this one and I absolutely love it!  

If you want some more ideas, here is my post on traveling with kids, with some more fantastic ideas!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Catching Up

It's been a few weeks since I've made time to blog and now I am ready to get back into the habit.  So, let's catch up.  Go grab a cup of coffee and join me in some chit chat.  

Sometimes life just gets hectic.  Life is busy.  School has been back in session for 5 weeks and we have officially found our groove, made it back to the beach, celebrated a birthday, started Bible Study, soccer has started, and a few other things that would probably bore you.  I think yesterday, was the first day that I had time to notice how quiet my house was.

My sweet reader friends, this year is so strange.  Both kids are at school for the majority of the day and there is quiet.  I can clean up and it stays clean.  I can sit and read and no one interrupts me.  It took me 5 weeks to realize how quiet it is when you aren't rushing around trying to get things done.  I kind of miss them, but am really enjoying this time.

I've had a LOT of people ask me what I am going to do this year, and I joked that I will just sit down and eat bonbons all day.  Obviously, that isn't the case.  I won't lie.  Today, I needed some margin after going non stop for a few weeks and so I sat down and watched a chic flick and drank a latte.  I am okay with that.  Sometimes our brain just needs a break before started the next project.

There are a lot of projects coming up and some are a little overwhelming. . . like our office. I have the okay to re-do it.  But, first, I need to find it and get rid of some stuff.   Like I said, overwhelming.  Scary overwhelming.

I quieted the house the other day.  All the summer decorations have been retired and Fall is slowly starting to make an appearance.  I found the cutest little burlap/chevron pumpkins last week in the dollar spot at Target.  So, glad I grabbed them when I did, because I can't find them anymore.

Oh, and the bread making quest is going really nicely.  I can't wait to share a delicious recipe with you for some homemade cinnamon swirl bread.  I am really enjoying this challenge.  I think my family is too!

Did you challenge yourself to try something new or learn how to do something for the year?  One of mine was bread making.  It is awesome!    How is going for you?

Well, it's time to head to soccer practice, so I had better wrap this up.

Thanks for reading!


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