Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ohio Vacation Days 4 and 5

Continuing on our journey, reliving last week's vacation, I present Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tuesday was quite a day. We left mid-morning to drive to Northern Kentucky with the Creation Museum and Cincinnati as our destinations. As a science/math education major, Ryan loves the Creation Museum. Being that we believe in the intelligent design and the account of the book of Genesis, we were interested to see it too. It ended up being a nice museum and professionally put together, although truthfully it wasn't the highlight of our vacation. Still, we were glad to have seen it.

We crammed all seven of us into our minivan for the 2.5 hour drive, discovering along the way that our Air Conditioning had most certainly gone kaput. It was a hot day, and with all of us together in the car, and being pregnant, it wasn't the best ride ever. But, everybody kept a good attitude, even when Eva screamed, "my whole back is wet and my underwear too!" referring to our sweaty state of existence. Thor didn't much like being able to see his mother the whole time we were driving (she was in the way back with Hope and me), so he gave us a sampling from his vocal chords. Hope just kept trying to convince us, "I all done car seat, mommy." Anyway, we arrived no worse for the wear, and feeling a little more "bonded" as a family.

The museum consisted of several exhibits depicting the creation of the world, using lots of Bible references and confirming evidence from the scientific world. The girls enjoyed the wax displays of the Garden of Eden and Noah's Ark a lot, though the actual dinosaurs on display were a big highlight for Eva. I thought the planetarium was awesome. In addition to the museum, there was a huge garden and petting zoo outside, which we enjoyed too.

Originally, we planned to stay the night in Cincinnati and enjoy the old city on the Ohio River the next day. But through a series of mishaps, we ended up deciding to have dinner then drive back late to Canal W. We imagined that we could find some cool outdoor dining spot near the river, but alas, after an hour of scouring the city in our hot minivan on empty stomachs, we ended up in a hopping little section of down town. The food was good, and our high spirits were revived, despite the change of plans. After departing from downtown, in a stroke of pure genius, Eric and Ryan found the most delicious frozen yogurt I have ever tasted. Truly, if you find yourself in Cincinnati, you MUST try Yagoot Frozen Yogurt. Hot and sweaty, after tasting the mango yogurt with fresh raspberries, Stephanie proclaimed, "I feel like I just took a refreshing shower." Mmmmmmm. And then we drove back home, arriving late with sleepy babes. Pictures-

Wax Adam, enjoying paradise and some dinosaurs.
Hope looking up with awe at a dinosaur skeleton.
Eva is a little reserved at petting zoos, but Hope was all about giving this camel a big hug. For the record, Eva would tell you that she did pet the zebra!
Very tired little girl finally fell asleep in the dark planetarium. Yes!
Once we were settled at our patio dining experience, we all let off a little steam. The goofiness ensues-The girls and Thor sacked out in the car on the way back... so sweet!
Day 5??? I already blogged it up- check out our historical farm outing here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ohio Vacation Day 3

Monday ended up being a pretty chilled out day. Stephanie had worked the night before, so she slept until lunch time. Eric, everyone agreed, is a weirdo and took the entire morning to drive to THE ONLY Totinos's Pizza plant for a tour (located an hour south of Canal W.). Totino's is owned by General Mills, and he arranged a personal tour with an employee he has talked with over the phone, but never met in person. Only GM employees are allowed inside the plant, so Eric didn't invite any of us along. He said it was totally awesome to see though. He said that viewing the machinery and elaborate conveyor belts channelled the "lego-building boy in me." So I guess it wasn't soooo weird. Except that they wouldn't show him some of the more suspicious components of the plant, such as the pepperoni mixing room. That's OK, I didn't want to know what goes in that stuff anyway :).

The girls and I spent most of the morning exploring Ryan and Stephanie's neighborhood. We had a blast, finding lots of imagination engaging "thrills." I'll post pictures, but they aren't going to be in any particular order. The summary is: one-of-a-kind hopscotch on sidewalk (Eva loves hopscotch) and long-abandoned playhouse in unkempt corner of the yard. After the kids napped, we made an excursion to a local swimming hole of sorts, where Eric and Ryan proved their manliness. We went to Rock Mill, Ohio's oldest gristmill (not sure what that really means...), an abandoned old mill on the edge of a creek and waterfall. It could be a spooky old place, but we were in a fun loving mood. The photos show the location and the BIG jump. Eric has never cliff jumped before, and I totally didn't think he'd do it this time. But he did! He just went up there, took off his shirt, and off the cliff he jumped. It was awesome. They say it's about 40 feet, so that is a real act of bravery, in my opinion (and I think I'm qualified to have an opinion!). Sadly, Eric's ears have been bothering him a little since the jump, but he's pretty sure they aren't permanently damaged. It was a rainy day and we were down in a funky hollow, so the lighting is weird on the pictures. Bear with me...The old mill is being restored currently. You can see below the mill there are some wooden forms- that's the sand next to the pool. A long ways down.... the big question looming in my mind: if I wasn't pregnant, would I have jumped? I've lost some of my youthful vigor and stupidity, being a mom and all, but do I still have the guts???? I guess we'll find out next time!

This is Eric jumping (look for blue shorts). It all happened so fast that I hardly had time to get a decent picture and the lighting was so bad....
This is Ryan's jump (look for white shorts). He took some time to work up the nerve, so I had a bit longer, but still no good picture!I was apparently totally off with my clicking finger that day, b/c I just missed the cutest half-naked, congratulatory, Danish brother hug of all time. But Ryan still looks pretty happy about the jumping and the embracing, wouldn't you say???

After jumping, we headed to Butch's Italian Cafe for dinner and ate the famed Chicken Armando (that's for all you Patenaude's out there). It was rich and satisfying, just like the rest of our day!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nutty Power Bars

This is one of my most favorite recipes! You'll see- it's simple, yummy, and really healthy. Generally, these bars do best when they're refrigerated, so they are not ideal picnic fare, but they're still delicious even when they get a little goopy from the heat.

I adapted this recipe to be cheaper and use ingredients that we have around the house, but here's the original recipe.
Nutty Power Bars
2 c. raw nuts (I've used almonds and cashews)
1/2 c. flax meal (I grind flax seeds in a coffee grinder)
1/2 c. shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 c. nut butter (I've used almond and peanut)
1/2 t. celtic sea salt (skip this if you used salted nut butter)
1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
1 T. vanilla extract
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips (or dark chocolate!!! this is optional, but I would miss it!)
1. Place first 5 ingredients in food processor and pulse for 10 seconds or a until you like the texture.
2. Stir coconut oil, agave nectar, and vanilla together.
3. Add liquid ingredients to nut mixture and pulse briefly until a coarse paste forms.
4. Press into an 8x8 glass dish and refrigerate 1 hour.
5. Melt chocolate over the stove on low heat, stirring often. Spread chocolate over nut mixture and refrigerate until firm.
Most of the ingredients are a powerhouse of nutrition, and foods that we rarely get enough of in our daily diets. Click on the links to learn why you can feel so good about eating these scrumptious goodies. I have to add, I LOVE these during pregnancy or when I'm breastfeeding and I struggle to get enough healthy fats and protein in my diet. These bars really make me feel good!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ohio Vacation Day 1 & 2

We're back, and boy did we have fun! I am going to try to blog each day of small adventure, so that should keep me busy for the next week. Thankfully, we left the house in decent order, so I've only had to catch up by unpacking a few things, doing a couple loads of laundry, and heading to the grocery store (next on the agenda). Without further ado, here are the pictures-
We "charged" out the door around 6:30 AM for our 13.5 hour car trip. We were experimenting a bit with seating arrangements, and ended up puting the girls in the way back of the van, with one of the middle seats up to "service" everybody. It worked great... I had access to the laundry basket of books, crayons, CDs, etc. and the cooler was easily within reach. After 3 or 4 hours, we found ourselves in a stand still on the Wisconsin freeway. Here is a picture of the hold-up.
Thankfully we were only delayed 15 minutes or so, and much later in the day after 13 happy hours in the car, we were greeted by thisand the family reuniting began...
Thor had changed so much since we last saw him at Christmastime!
After dinner, the kiddos took Saturday night baths together. Eva and Hope thought it was really funny to imitate Thor sucking on his duckie.Everyone went to bed quite exhausted from the long day. Sunday morning we were up early for an 8:00 worship service at a local park.
Later in the day, we headed to Stephanie's parents' home to visit with Andy and Leslie. They served us up a lip smackin' good (almost southern) meal of BBQ ribs, cornbread, canteloupe, cucumber salad, baby potatoes, iced tea and TWO kinds of pie. Yum! After lunch we sat out on the back porch and chatted while the girls explored the "farm."
The end of a very restful Sunday.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Frugal Fridays - The best family destination in Ohio

Well, I've been MIA this week due to our vacation to visit family in Ohio. We have had lots of fun each day, but our favorite adventures have been the free ones (of course!). Yesterday, we visited a living history museum of sorts, a working 1880's farm near Columbus, Ohio. Eric said, "this is a gem, a real treasure! If we lived here, I'd make a point to go out there every few weeks with the girls. I've never seen Eva's eyes like that. It was too awesome to be free."

Slate Run Living Historical Farm was a step into the past where we watched men and women go about their day running a single family farm dwelling. The farm is fully self-sustaining, growing vegetables, hay, wheat, and raising hogs, sheep, and chickens. All the animals and crops were naturally raised and heirloom varieties, making me drool for the highly nutritious veggies, meat, and eggs. The employees of the farm actually eat their meals at the farm all year, after the women have prepared them using techniques of the 1880's. Even their bacon is smoked in a smoke house down the hill from the summer kitchen! Eva has a small obsession with pioneer life, founded on her love of Laura Ingalls and Kirsten, the American Girl. She enjoys learning about lots of different times in history, but she was clearly thrilled to be transported back to this time period. She said very little, but took in everything with huge eyes. Since most tools and items around the farm were available for the public to use, she really enjoyed trying everything out and pretending to live as a pioneer girl. At one point we were standing in the main house kitchen watching two women work on sorting through some canned goods. They were getting rid of the older canned goods by dumping them in a bucket to feed to the pigs. Eva stepped out on the side porch and beckoned me out to join her. Once outside, she whispered to me with urgency, "Mom, can you ask them if I can play with them?" I obliged, and Eva was given the job of scooping old applesauce into the slop bucket. Later in the day, after walking through the grounds, Eva asked if she could go back to the house alone. She hurried down the lane, and we were happy to find her 20 minutes later helping to stack jars of pickles and beets in the root cellar. Here she is with her "playmate"-In the Little House on the Prairie TV series, there is an episode in which Laura competes with Nellie Olsen in a hoop rolling contest. Wouldn't you know, the farm had several hoops to practice rolling in the yard! Eva practiced for a bit, then challenged Aunt Stephanie to a duel.We all enjoyed the barn and work areas, but of course Eric and Ryan spent the most time there. Since it was a bit of a rainy day, the men didn't have much work to be doing in the fields and were more than eager to talk with visitors. Two different gentlemen led us through the barn, machinery shop, wood working shop, and animal pens. They flooded us with interesting information, descriptions of how to use the tools and people-powered machines, the farming processes, and conversation about how the farm continues today. Here is Eric discussing the construction techniques used to build the barn. Simply said, we were amazed by everything we saw and heard.
A few other tempting photos-
Eva enjoyed pretending to churn butter... I enjoyed imagining the highly nutritious raw farm butter of the 1880's.
Hope had a lot of fun climbing around the hay loft in the barn and petting the huge work horses and milk cows. This is one happy girl. As Eric said, "this farm is a treasure!" Thanks for taking us there, Ryan and Stephanie!

For more frugal ideas, visit Life As Mom for Frugal Fridays!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Frugal Fridays - Use up the Watermelon!

Remember when I posted about my expiring watermelon and all the great recipes I thought we would try?

Well, we tried 'em, and now we have a new favorite smoothie concoction. First of all, you can use either frozen or fresh watermelon. Since I wasn't going to be able to use my watermelon before it went bad, I seeded it, then froze it in muffin tins for easy access later on. Here's the original recipe from Good Housekeeping magazine-

Frozen Watermelon Slush
3 cups seedless watermelon, cubed (fresh or frozen)
1 cup frozen strawberries
2 scoops lemon sorbet or sherbet (optional, in my opinion)
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 T. lime juice

In a blender, combine ingredients until smooth. Yields 3 1/2 cups.
Easy-schmeasy, right? We drank these as smoothies first following the directions exactly. Then I made a big batch of popsicles, leaving out the lemon sherbet. We love the popsicles for a treat on a hot day, and they're actually good for you too!
Did you know just how good watermelon is for you??? It packs a big punch of vitamins A, C, and B6. And it's the leader among fresh fruits and veggies containing lycopene- a key nutrient for eyesight.

So, next time your family can't tackle a whole watermelon in one sitting, mix up some popsicles for a yummy, warm-weather snack another day! For more great frugal ideas, head over to Life As Mom for Frugal Fridays.