Sunday, July 13, 2014

Our First Family Vacation

In June our family set out on our first family vacation. Last summer my mom had passed through the Black Hills as part of a vacation to national and state parks out west. She thought South Dakota would be a good choice for our family. Looking through the visitor's guide, we knew there would be plenty to keep everyone in the family happy-camping, hiking, kids' attractions, animals, and plenty of beautiful scenery. We were not disappointed! It was an awesome trip.

My kids are used to riding in the car. We make regular trips to visit my family in Iowa--a four-and-a-half-hour drive. Just to be safe I pulled together extra car-friendly activities that I found on Pinterest. They were troopers during the whole trip. So, without further ado, here's a photo recap of our trip.

Hitting the selfie!

Falls Park, Sioux Falls

Camping in Oakwood Lakes State Park

Getting close with the wolves at Bramble Park Zoo

Levi getting a close-up view of one of the tigers
Driving a covered wagon at Ingalls Homestead

Lillian ready for school in a one-room schoolhouse

Laundry time!

The "covered wagon" we slept in at Ingalls Homestead.
It's actually modeled after a 1880s sheepherder's wagon.

Tuning up a car at Children's Museum of South Dakota

Mount Rushmore
Buffalo herd along the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park
At the top of Harney Peak
Levi hiked the whole six-mile trail on his own.
Lillian hitched a ride on John's back.

Devil's Tower

At the top of Lover's Leap.
Lillian hiked this three-mile trail on her own.

A family selfie along the trail

Here's a run-down of the places we went on our vacation:
-Falls Park, Sioux Falls
-Oakwood Lakes State Park (camping), Bruce
-Bramble Park Zoo, Watertown
-Children's Museum of South Dakota, Brookings
-Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, DeSmet
-Ingalls Homestead, DeSmet
-Badlands National Park
-Black Hills National Forest
-Custer State Park (camping--Grace Coolidge Campground)
-Mount Rushmore, Keystone
-1880 Train, Hill City
-Devil's Tower, Wyoming
-Bear Country USA, Rapid City
-Spearfish Canyon Scenic Drive
-Needles Highway Scenic Drive
-Iron Mountain Scenic Drive
-Wildlife Loop Scenic Drive
-Hiking in Custer State Park-Harney Peak, Lover's Leap

For general information on South Dakota tourism, visit their tourism page.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lillian Turns Three!

I've been blogging about birthdays a lot in the last few months, but I can't help it that we have three birthdays in the spring at our house. This will be the last one, I promise.

Our little girl, Lillian, turned three last week. She was very excited about the idea of being a "big girl".

Since we can't celebrate just once, we had a family party on Saturday and a little friend playdate this week. For her party, she requested an Elmo theme. Last year we did a Sesame Street themed party and what she was hoping for this year was for me to make the Elmo cupcakes again. That was not going to happen, but we agreed on an Elmo cake. I could count on my father-in-law to come help make it happen. He is a great partner in cake-making. I do the baking and we come up with a plan together. He executes the cake-carving and handles most of the frosting. It turned out so cute!

Earlier this week, we had a birthday playdate with another family. It works out well because the boys are the same age and the girls are the same age so they play well together. Plus, they have a baby sister who Lillian is in love with.

At three, Lillian is quite the talker. She has a lot to say and knows plenty of words to get her point across. She is so observant and picks up on everything that goes on around her. Since she was a baby she has been very "determined". It's fun to see this determination and independence in her, though sometimes it works against us. Lillian is full of personality, sweet, and loving and I'm so glad she's mine.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!! {with cupcakes, of course}

Friday was my birthday. I got lots of birthday wishes on Facebook and friends and family throughout the day. John and I dropped the kids off at his parents for an overnight stay so we had dinner out and watched non-Disney movies. How spoiled I feel when I get to watch a movie that's not a cartoon. We rented a couple of movies we had missed while they were in the theater-Labor Day (obviously my pick) and Anchorman 2 (mutual pick).

Saturday we headed to the Kane County Flea Market in the afternoon. I picked up a yellow hoop back chair for my kitchen from d Christine's. They used to have a shop in Marengo, but now are going to be selling at some local markets. They have really cute things! I also got a set of colorful melamine bowls (with lids) for my birthday. I can't get enough of colorful bowls...literally.

Saturday night we had pizza with the kids and John's parents. For dessert we ate Key Lime Cupcakes (see my note below) that I had made the day before. Levi insisted that they sing the birthday song to me twice-once before dinner and once before the cupcakes. I definitely felt the birthday love and it's nice to be able to do some of your favorite things to celebrate.

A sidenote on the cupcakes... The one change that was made from the original Sprinkles recipe by the blogger who posted the recipe was more lime flavor in the frosting. The cupcake itself was delicious, but I think if I did it again, I would reduce the amount of lime flavoring in the frosting. The original Sprinkles recipe called for 1 tsp. lime juice in the frosting. The blogger increased it to 5 Tbsp. lime juice. For me, I would go somewhere in the middle of those two. I felt the lime flavor in the frosting could have been a little more subtle. Overall they were really yummy cupcakes though.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rewind: Levi's 5th Birthday

It has been busy here this past month. So busy, that I didn't even get to write a post about Levi's 5th birthday.

We first celebrated at a party with family and friends. Levi requested a Transformers theme.

After requesting multiply Transformers for the top of his cake, he decided on Optimus Prime. For the cake I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe with buttercream frosting.

Levi and his buddy, David
Cake time!

The kids all huddled up for the presents.

One of his favorite gifts--a mini Buck knife like Daddy's.

On his actual birthday, March 25, he had a party with his preschool classmates. We played simple party games-many of which I remember playing at my own parties as a child.

I made an Optimus Prime cupcake cake for that party. I used my confetti cupcake recipe with buttercream.

What a treat it is to be mommy to Levi. He is a smart, funny, and loving little boy. He constantly amazes us with his memory and his wit.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 that you?

Yesterday the thermometer rose above 50 degrees. It was at least November, maybe even October since that last happened. Though I enjoy winter, this one has seemed very long. So, we had to get outside to enjoy this weather.

With the snow melting, there were plenty of puddles for the kids to splash in. We all enjoyed the fresh air and "warmth". It makes me hopeful that spring will indeed come...eventually. (I'm choosing to ignore the fact that we are getting 3 to 5 inches of snow tomorrow.)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

February Fun

It's the end of February and it's still extra cold here, but we've been busy with friends and family so the month has quickly passed by. I thought I'd show some highlights from the fun we've been having.

Playing with Lillian's Valentine play-doh.
Valentine's Day lunch with cousins Griffin and Trenton.
John and I shared a cheesecake for two and watched a movie for Valentine's Day.
The kids and I spent a long weekend in Iowa visiting family.
Gearing up to cheer on the undefeated Panther wrestling team.
A hug from T.C. (The Cat) for Levi. Lillian preferred to keep her distance.
Enjoying the meet with Uncle Nathan and Aunt Steffoni.
Grandma K had plenty of snow to play in.

We got to spend time with my cousin, Michelle, and her family who were in town from Washington. We had a perfect day for sledding-sunny and actually kind of warm.
Michelle, Abby, and Lillian
Hunter and Levi
Abby and Lillian building a snowman.
Wayne built a jump for us and took Levi on a run with him.
When we got home we had a belated birthday dinner for John. He requested an apple pie, as usual.
A trip to the Volo Auto Museum-a first for our family.
Levi's friend Anna and her dad and brother came along too. He was super excited to see Bumblebee.
Lillian-our speed racer.
The Circus Spectacular with more friends. Levi loved the stunt dirt bike riders.